Bloomberg News

Columbia University Student Pleads Guilty in Drug Case

July 19, 2011

(Updates to add comments from court appearance starting in third paragraph.)

July 19 (Bloomberg) -- A Columbia University student accused of running an on-campus drug dealing operation pleaded guilty to selling cocaine to an undercover officer.

Harrison David, 20, agreed to the plea today before Judge Michael Sonberg in New York state Supreme Court in Manhattan in exchange for six months in jail and five years of probation. David, of Wrentham, Massachusetts, on June 21 rejected a plea bargain for one year in prison and two years probation. He is scheduled for sentencing on Aug. 30.

“We believe the additional three years of supervised release will serve the interest of justice in this case,” Assistant District Attorney William Novak said.

David’s attorney, Matthew Myers, said he agreed to the plea because he felt the previous offer of one year in prison was “somewhat harsh” for David, who he said was a “respectful,” “brilliant kid” with a “very bright future.”

“I think it was a fair resolution,” Myers told reporters outside court after David pleaded guilty to selling cocaine to an undercover officer on Aug. 24 at an apartment on West 113th Street where he was staying last summer.

Defense Requests

Four other 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. They are scheduled to return to court Sept. 23.

Novak has rejected defense requests to divert the cases to state drug-treatment courts, saying the sales were motivated by profit, not addiction.

The five students were arrested in December after a five- month investigation named “Operation Ivy League.” The arrests followed raids on fraternity houses and residences on the university’s Manhattan campus.

David, a sophomore engineering student, is currently suspended by the school and is likely to be expelled given his guilty plea, Myers said. He remains free on bail until his sentencing and is staying in Florida with an uncle, a former corrections officer who is a “strict disciplinarian,” Myers said.

“He’s moved on with his life,” Myers said of David, who was accompanied at today’s court appearance by his father, Dave David, a Boston-area cosmetic surgeon.

Ecstasy, LSD

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, New York. None of them attended Columbia.

Sarzynski pleaded 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.

Columbia, founded in 1754, has about 25,000 students and is one of eight schools in the northeastern U.S. that make up the Ivy League. Graduates include President Barack Obama and Warren Buffett, the chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Robert Hornsby, a spokesman for Columbia, declined to comment in an e-mail.

The case is People v. David, 00038N/2011, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan.)

--Editors: Andrew Dunn, Fred Strasser

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Dolmetsch in New York at cdolmetsch@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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