Harrison David, SEAS '12, pled guilty this morning to one count of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree.
He will serve up to six months concurrent with five years of probation post release. If he violates any of the contingencies of his probation, he faces incarceration for up to nine years.
In December, five Columbia students, David among them, were arrested for selling thousands of dollars worth of drugs out of fraternity houses and dorm rooms. The other four students, Chris Coles, CC ’12, Adam Klein, CC ’12, Jose Stephan Perez (known on campus as Stephan Vincenzo), CC ’12, and Michael Wymbs, SEAS ’11, face less serious charges and have maintained that they are not guilty.
Before reading the sentence to the court, Judge Stephen Sonberg asked David if he did in fact admit to selling drugs to an undercover cop, to which David replied, "Yes." When asked what kind of drug, David replied, "Cocaine." Judge Sonberg asked if it was powder cocaine, to which David answered, "Yes."
A previous deal of up to one year in prison concurrent with two years of probation post release was reduced to the current sentence.
"While it will be less incarceration time, the three additional years of monitoring time will be in the interest of justice," Assistant District Attorney William Novak said in a statement to the court.
David's attorney Matthew Myers said he believed the previous deal to be "somewhat harsh," he thinks that today's sentence "was a fair resolution."
"[Harrison] is respectful, has a very bright future and has never been incarcerated before. He will only have to do four to six months," Myers continued.
Myers also commented on the status of David's enrollment at Columbia. Though he is currently suspended from the University, he expects that after today's resolution, an official expulsion will be issued in the near future.
David is from Massachusetts but is currently residing in Florida with an uncle until his sentence begins. According to Myers, he will transfer his probation to Florida after he is released.
Myers plans on applying for a Certificate of Relief on David's behalf upon his release, which "relieves some of the onerous qualities of having a felony conviction in the civil world."
According to the New York State Division of Parole, a Certificate of Relief removes various mandatory legal bars or disabilities resulting from a felony conviction. If granted, David's right to apply and be considered for employment or license will be restored, as well as his right to vote.
His record, however, will not be sealed. As this was a non-violent crime and David's first offense, Myers fully expects the application to be granted.
Myers had previously said that his client hoped to transfer to another university, but today in court he said David faces a tough road ahead. "Because of the nature of communication ... schools are not apt to let someone in who has a narcotic sale on their record," he said.
A spokesperson for the University said Columbia has no comment. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act bars universities from commenting on the enrollment status and disciplinary records of its students in most cases.
Though cases in which undercover officers are involved are often the hardest cases, Myers believes that the pending criminal case of one of the "undercovers" helped David.
Det. Richard Palase was charged with being the ringleader of a gambling operation in Staten Island. Palase was involved with two of the alleged transactions with David.
"[David] is taking responsibility for it and has mentally moved on. He has huge regrets about it because he has blown an Ivy League education."
David declined to comment at his hearing and via email.