Students Plead Not Guilty To Drug Use

HUPD investigation concludes that plainsclothes officer acted appropriately

Editor's Note: Since the publication of this story in September 2006, new information has arisen regarding the case in question. The allegations were proven false, the arrest was expunged, and subsequent police investigations and inquiries by Harvard's Administrative Board concluded that the claims made by the alleged victim in the subsequent story had no basis. At the time of these developments, The Crimson was not notified of the exoneration and therefore did not report on those developments. As such, we provide this note as a way of fully documenting the situation to its eventual conclusion.

Four undergraduates allegedly found in possession of marijuana in a 10 DeWolfe suite last month pled not guilty to various drug charges in an arraignment yesterday.

And a Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) internal investigation into the police search of a neighboring room that same night has concluded that the officer involved acted appropriately.

The three undergraduates who live in the DeWolfe suite—Jason R. Gardner ’07, Mathias G. Gordon ’07, and Nathan O. Simmons ’07—were charged with possession of a Class D substance with intent to distribute in a school zone, according to Middlesex District Attorney spokeswoman Melissa Sherman.

“They were released on their own personal recognizance with the condition that they not use drugs or weapons, and attend Narcotics Anonymous three times a week,” she said yesterday.

Police filed charges against the students last month after a HUPD detective smelled what he said was the odor of marijuana emanating from a second-floor DeWolfe dorm room window at around 8 p.m. on Jan. 6.

“The detective entered the building, identified the room and, once again, detected a strong odor of marijuana,” HUPD spokesman Steven G. Catalano told The Crimson last month. “The detective entered the room and made some observations, which led to a criminal investigation.”

The fourth student, Zoe A. Strominger ’07, who does not live in the room, was charged only with drug possession, Sherman said.

The other three defendants were charged with a drug offense in a school zone because the University-affiliated Radcliffe Child Care Center is located a floor below their suite in DeWolfe.

None of the suspects in this case were arrested, according to Catalano.

HUPD originally released the names and charges of the students in their online police log, but took them down soon after, citing department policy. The names were posted online again following yesterday’s arraignment.

Gardner, 19, declined to comment for this story. Gordon, 20, Simmons, 20, and Strominger, 20, did not respond to requests for comment.

Two DeWolfe residents, Kristi L. Jobson ’06 and Cat P. Walleck ’06, reported last month that a plainclothes officer visited their suite shortly before entering the suspects’ room, claiming that he was investigating a noise complaint.

The account prompted HUPD to conduct an internal investigation into the detective’s conduct.

“The investigation into the dorm ‘search’ is complete,” Catalano wrote in an e-mail. “We looked into it. There was no search of the room and we found the officer’s actions reasonable.”

Jobson, who is a former Crimson magazine associate editor, said yesterday that she and Walleck had spoken “extensively” with the police about the incident, and that they were satisfied with the outcome.

“They definitely said that they’re going to work in the future on training officers on how to interact better with students,” Jobson said. “He should have just told us what he was looking for.”

A pre-trial hearing for the four undergraduates is slated for March 20.

—Robin M. Peguero contributed to the reporting of this story.
—Staff writer Laurence H. M. Holland can be reached at lholland@fas.harvard.edu.

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