Columbia University Cartel” Student Avoids Prison Sentence in Felony Drug Scheme; Matthew Myers, counsel
A Columbia University student who was the main target of an undercover investigation of a ring that sold drugs from the campus will be sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty Tuesday to selling cocaine.
The student, Harrison David, is expected to begin serving his time on Rikers Island on Aug. 30, when he is formally sentenced.
Charges are pending against four other students — Christopher Coles, Adam Klein, Jose Perez and Michael Wymbs — who were arrested with Mr. David last December; their lawyers filed motions Tuesday as part of their requests for a drug-treatment resolution that could lead to their clients’ cases being dismissed.
Mr. David, 20, was charged with the most serious crimes of the five students, who were arrested under what the authorities called Operation Ivy League.
Mr. David will most likely be expelled from Columbia as a result of the guilty plea, and his felony conviction may compromise his efforts to get into a new university, said his lawyer, Matthew D. Myers.
“He has huge regrets about it,” Mr. Myers said. “I think he is taking responsibility for it. He is not being combative. He’s not disgruntled about the results.”
After he is released from jail, Mr. David will have to serve five years’ probation.
Mr. David left the courthouse without speaking. A spokesman for Columbia declined to comment.
The city’s Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, which is handling the case, initially offered Mr. David a deal of one year in prison and two years’ probation. But William Novak, an assistant district attorney, said in court that the office believed the new arrangement served the interest of justice because it meant that Mr. David would have to be under supervision for a longer period of time after his release from jail.
The top charge against Mr. David, second-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, carried a mandatory minimum sentence of three years’ incarceration and a maximum of 10 years. Instead, he pleaded guilty to third-degree sale of a controlled substance, which does not have a mandatory minimum.
Mr. David, dressed in a dark pinstriped suit, admitted in court that he had sold cocaine last August to an undercover officer. The sale took place at Mr. David’s apartment, according to prosecutors.
Mr. Myers, Mr. David’s lawyer, said he thought the plea “was a fair resolution.”
It would have been too harsh to send Mr. David to a state prison, Mr. Myers said. Mr. David had never been incarcerated before, Mr. Myers said, adding that he was respectful and “has a very bright future.”
“You’re talking about a brilliant kid,” Mr. Myers said.
Mr. Myers said Mr. David, who studied engineering at Columbia, would apply for a certificate of relief from the judge, which would loosen some of the restrictions on him as a convicted felon, like on his right to vote.