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Columbia Students Retain High-Powered Attorneys for 'Drug Ring' Defense

By DNAinfo Staff on January 18, 2011 6:49am  | Updated on January 18, 2011 7:53am

By Shayna Jacobs

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — At least three of the Columbia University undergrads charged in connection to a campus drug ring exposed last month have retained high-powered defense attorneys who previously handled celebrities and other prominent cases, DNAinfo has learned.

The students — all of whom are due in court Tuesday — face a litany of drug charges stemming from "Operation Ivy League," a five-month joint investigation by the NYPD and the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor that led to the arrests of five students and three alleged suppliers.

Peter Frankel, a lawyer who represents New York Jets star wide receiver Braylon Edwards on charges he drove while drunk, has also taken on the case of 20-year-old Jose Stephan Perez, a Columbia student charged with selling Adderall and amphetamine to an undercover police officer at the Pi Kappa Alpha house on West 114th Street's "fraternity row," sources told DNAinfo.

Frankel also represented hip hop artist and actor Method Man in a tax evasion case and former New York Giant Plaxico Burress on a gun possession rap in 2009.

Philosophy student Christopher Coles, 20, has hired Marc Agnifilo, a former federal prosecutor who recently represented fallen Manhattan real estate tycoon Adam Hochfelder as well as Temeka Lewis, a former escort booker for Emperors Club V.I.P., the underground prostitution agency patronized by disgraced former governor Eliot Spitzer

Columbia student Adam Klein was allegedly caught with more than $4,000 in cash and has been charged with selling LSD, including sprinkling the drug on Altoids breath mints and SweetTARTS candy, prosecutors said.

Klein, also 20, has hired veteran criminal defense attorney Alan Abramson.

It remained unclear prior to Tuesday's proceedings which attorneys will represent defendants Harrison David, 21, who is facing a class "A" felony and is charged with being the ringleader of the Columbia drug ring; or Michael Wymbs, 22, an engineering student who allegedly sold MDMA and LSD from his campus apartment on Morningside Drive and was arrested with $500 in cash on his person, according to the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, Bridget Brennan, who is handling the case.

The defendants were assigned publicly-funded lawyers at their arraignment on Dec. 7, but it was unclear whether some of them have changed lawyers by choice or because they do not qualify for public defenders because they do not qualify as financially indigent.

The defendants have all been released after posting as much as $75,000 in bail.

Between the five defendants, prosecutors said undercover narcotics officers bought nearly $11,000 worth of marijuana, cocaine, powdered ecstasy, Adderall and LSD.

Some of the students arrested allegedly told arresting officers they were dealing drugs to pay for their tuition.