Marijuana charges against students dropped


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BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Authorities have dropped criminal charges against three University of Vermont students who were arrested in April after a marijuana smoke-in on campus.

Sophomores Thomas Wheeler and Nikolai Sears, who were charged with disorderly conduct, and freshman Eli See, who was charged with possession of marijuana, had been scheduled for arraignment Monday in Vermont District Court in Burlington. The charges were misdemeanors.

UVM Police Chief Gary Margolis said the cases would be sent through university channels instead of the criminal system.

Robert Simpson, the state's attorney, said he could not speak for See's case but said Wheeler's and Sears' charges were dropped because they allegedly committed minor offenses. Referring them to UVM's judicial board would be "a better use of everyone's resources," he said.

The students face campus judicial hearings this summer, said Robert Kelly, UVM's associate dean of students. Kelly said the accusations would likely yield disciplinary probation and alcohol and drug consultation with a member of the university's Center for Health and Well-being.

"I felt it was fair," Margolis said.

Wheeler and Sears contended that they were unfairly charged and that their First Amendment rights were abused. Wheeler said Monday that he wasn't surprised the cases were dropped.

"The situation was very predictable," he said, "and I was clearly used as an example for the university to show they're cutting down on the school's party reputation."

Published: June 8, 2004
Copyright: 2004 Associated Press.
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