Ivy League Case Tests New Law
Byline: Jennifer Peltz Associated Press
NEW YORK -- They were students who juggled an elite education with criminal extracurriculars, dealing an array of drugs from Ivy League dorm rooms and frat houses, prosecutors say.
But beneath the surface of academic success, some of the Columbia University students charged in a campus drug takedown struggled with substance abuse, their lawyers say. Attorneys for two of the five students plan to ask a court to prescribe treatment instead of prison -- one of the most high-profile tests so far of a recent overhaul of New York's once-notoriously stringent drug laws.
The outcome will be watched closely by opponents and proponents of 2009 changes to mitigate what were known as the Rockefeller drug laws. Backers called the lesser punishments a more effective and humane approach to drug crime; critics said they gave drug peddlers a pass.
With the bid for what's known as "diversion" to treatment, the Columbia bust "is probably the case that's going to cause light to be shed on what these new laws mean: When diversion is appropriate, and what the Legislature intended when it cut back so drastically the Rockefeller laws," said Marc Agnifilo, who represents one of the students, Christopher Coles.
Coles and fellow students Harrison David, Adam Klein, Jose Perez and Michael Wymbs were arrested in December, have pleaded not guilty and are due back in court in March. …