Four Undergrads Face Drug Charges

Students' names temporarily released online in what HUPD calls a mistake

This article has been modified from its original version. Correction appended.

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.Police filed criminal charges against four undergraduates yesterday after a Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) detective picked up what he suspected to be the scent of marijuana emanating from a DeWolfe dorm room and subsequently entered the room last Friday evening. The names of the four students were prematurely released in online HUPD logs for a few hours yesterday morning in what HUPD is calling a mistake. Although the names and charges have since been removed from the online logs, they will be made publicly available if the suspects are arraigned, HUPD Spokesman Steven G. Catalano said. No arrests have been made in the case. According to the original log entry, three of the students—Jason R. Gardner ’07, Mathias G. Gordon ’07, and Nathan O. Simmons ’07—have been charged with drug possession near a school or park. Gardner, 19, who lives with Simmons, 20, and Gordon, 20, in DeWolfe, said yesterday that police are unfairly making an example out of them. “It seems unjust, just because Harvard seems to be pretty lax on this issue,” he said. “There’s been cases where kids have been caught with a lot more. It doesn’t seem that their [complaint] fits what they’ve found.” Although Catalano would not comment on specifics, he said an HUPD officer dressed in plain clothes was patrolling the parking lot adjacent to DeWolfe Street when he detected what he suspected was a strong odor of marijuana wafting down from an open window on the second floor. “The detective entered the building, identified the room and, once again, detected a strong odor of marijuana,” Catalano said. “The detective entered the room and made some observations, which led to a criminal investigation that is ongoing.” Catalano would not confirm the names of the suspects or their charges yesterday. “Although the [criminal] complaint has been granted, they have not been arraigned,” he said. “Once they’re arraigned, the log will be once again updated with their names and charges.” He added that the temporary posting of the names online yesterday was not a violation of any public-records law. “We’re not violating the law,” he said. “It’s just as a common practice, we prefer to post names only after they’ve been arraigned. We made a mistake and went against our policy.” Whereas public police departments are required by law to release the names of individuals charged with a crime, HUPD, which is a private university police force, is not required to do so. A Crimson lawsuit filed against HUPD two years ago concerning issues of confidentiality was argued in front of the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court last November and is still pending. The Crimson argued that HUPD should be required to disclose more detailed crime reports, including the names of individuals who have been charged with crimes but not yet arraigned. Simmons and Gardner have also been charged with intent to distribute, they said yesterday. Gordon did not respond to repeated requests for comment yesterday. “What they have is not a solid argument, not solid evidence,” Gardner said. “No one was distributing and it’s just ridiculous, especially during finals, having to have this loom over our heads. It makes a very stressful situation.” Simmons, who maintains he did not engage in any illegal activity, said that he and his roommates allowed the officer to enter the room that night. He added that police could not find anything in their room to warrant an arrest. “If it was that serious, they probably would’ve arrested us,” Gardner said. “[The officer] told me he didn’t need a warrant [to enter the room].” Because the alleged offense occurred near a school, the University-affiliated Radcliffe Child Care Center on the first floor of DeWolfe, the three roommates are charged with a drug violation in a school zone. According to the original log entry, the fourth student, Zoe A. Strominger ’07, who does not live in the room, has been charged with possession of marijuana but not with a drug violation in a school zone. Strominger,