Five seniors sign pleas in drug case

Editor’s note:
In September 2010, a judge dismissed Russell Dubin’s case because it lacked evidence to move forward.

All five GW students arrested during the execution of a search warrant at an off-campus townhouse last fall have now signed plea deals in the case, according to court documents.

The students, each facing separate drug possession charges, entered guilty pleas and were sentenced under a D.C. law that allows their cases to be dismissed as long as they follow the terms of their one-year probation period.

In December, the five co-defendants – seniors Brett Reisman, James Donoghue, Dennis Perales, Russell Dubin, and Jared Cobert – pled not guilty to the charges brought against them.

On Oct. 30 Metropolitan Police searched the Foggy Bottom townhouse and confiscated $1,171 in cash, three plastic bags of a substance that tested positive for cocaine, about 160 grams of marijuana, a scale, and plastic baggies, according to police reports and court documents. Court filings state officers also confiscated a grey safe, a ledger, multiple pipes, cell phones, and IDs.

Reisman was the first defendant to change his plea, pleading guilty to attempted possession of marijuana on February 25. He was originally charged with unlawful possession with intent to distribute marijuana and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia.

In March, Dubin and Cobert pled guilty to attempted possession of marijuana. Both were originally charged with unlawful possession of marijuana and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia.

Perales pled guilty to attempted possession of cocaine, the only charge he faced. Donoghue – who was originally charged with unlawful possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, unlawful possession of cocaine and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia – pled guilty March 26 to possession of marijuana.

As part of separate plea deals, Reisman, Dubin, Perales and Cobert are each required to serve 40 hours of community service and meet other requirements of their one-year probations. Donoghue’s plea deal puts him on a one-year probation that does not include community service hours.

Tejpal Chawla, deputy chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Misdemeanor Unit, said Tuesday that there is not much difference between pleading guilty to “attempted possession” versus “possession” of marijuana.

“Under the law it’s the same maximum penalty. [Attempted possession] just sounds better than actual possession,” Chawla said.

He said the maximum penalty for either form of possession is 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

“Often we allow people to plead to attempted possession. Some people like the sound of it better,” Chawla said.

The defendants all signed a court order imposing “probation without adjudication of guilt.” Chawla said D.C. law allows a judge to sentence a person found guilty of his or her first offense by probation without adjudication of guilt.

If the person completes all his or her probation, “the court will seal the arrest records and seal the conviction records,” Chawla said.

None of the students nor their attorneys responded to requests for comment.

The article has been revised to reflect the following clarification (April 26, 2010)

The article “Five seniors sign pleas in drug case” (April 8, p. 1) implies that all five seniors lived in the same dwelling at 911 26th St. NW. In fact, the townhouse is made up of two separate apartment units. The grey Sentry safe containing approximately 160 grams of a green weed substance (including packaging), a scale, $930, and a ledger book were all found in the closet of a room referred to as bedroom 1, which is located in the downstairs apartment. According to court documents, multiple identification cards for James Donoghue were found in that bedroom. Russell Dubin, Jared Cobert, and Dennis Perales did not live in the downstairs apartment where those items were recovered. They lived in the upstairs apartment.

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