(Updates with comments from defendants’ attorney starting in second paragraph, additional defendants in fifth paragraph.)
June 21 (Bloomberg) -- A group of Columbia University students accused of selling drugs on the Ivy League school’s New York campus rejected plea deals offered by prosecutors during a court hearing today in state Supreme Court.
Harrison David, 20, of Wrentham, Massachusetts, rejected an offer from prosecutors to plead guilty to criminal sale of a controlled substance in exchange for one year in prison and two years’ probation. David faces as many as 10 years in prison if convicted of the most-serious charge, said his attorney, Matthew Myers.
Myers said his client is being singled out by prosecutors for a more severe penalty, and that probation is a more appropriate sentence. The only reason David sold cocaine was at the urging of undercover officers who suggested he “bump up” his marijuana sales, Myers said.
“None of this started as a cocaine operation,” Myers told reporters after today’s court appearance. “I think it’s highly unfair that he’s separated.”
The other four students -- Christopher Coles, 21, of Philadelphia; Adam Klein, 21, of Closter, New Jersey; Jose Stephan Perez, 20, of Atlanta; and Michael Wymbs, 22, of New York -- refused deals to plead guilty to drug-related charges that would have earned them each five years’ probation.
Prosecutor William Novak rejected requests by their defense attorneys to divert their cases to state drug treatment courts, saying their sales were motivated by profit and not addiction.
‘Operation Ivy League’
The five students and three other people were indicted in December following a five-month investigation named “Operation Ivy League.” The students were arrested in March after raids on fraternity houses and residences on the school’s Manhattan campus.
Prosecutors said undercover officers spent $11,000 buying drugs including cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy and LSD-laced Altoids mints and Sweetarts candy, with most of the sales taking place in common areas and bedrooms of three fraternities.
Alleged suppliers Miron Sarzynski, 24, and his girlfriend, Megan Asper, 22, were arrested in October in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan. Another alleged cocaine supplier, Roberto Lagares, 31, was arrested in December in Brooklyn. None of them attended Columbia.
Sarzynski plead guilty to second-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and first-degree attempted kidnapping and was sentenced to six years in prison. Asper pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and was sentenced to 45 days in prison. Lagares pleaded guilty to criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree and was sentenced to six years in prison.
The case is People v. David, 00038N/2011, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan.)
--Editors: Glenn Holdcraft, Andrew Dunn
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