Last week Detective Richard Palase, an NYPD detective, was arrested by federal authorities and charged with conspiracy to operate an illegal gambling business. Palase was a central figure in the Columbia University drug bust last year, which Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridgett Brennan and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly blew up to be a major narcotics arrest.
But in reality it was a small time arrest that netted five students for selling drugs on their school campus. In a press release distributed by the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, headed by Brennan, the bust was dubbed "Operation Ivy League." It was described as the culmination of a five-month police sting where they planted a baby-faced looking undercover cop to purchase drugs from the students.
The undercover detective visited Columbia University and went into the student dorms and made 31 buys over a five-month period. Student Christopher Coles, told the NY Daily News that the cops exaggerated the extent of the bust. Now it seems that Coles might be right and questions are being asked about the case and whether or not the arrest of Detective Palase could affect its outcome.
Palase was arrested for allegedly heading up a $6,000-per-day gambling operation in Staten Island. The NYPD veteran of 15 years was suspended by the department after his arrest. Prosecutors have said that the suppliers of the drugs, Miron Sarzynski, 24, Megan Asper, 22, both of the East Village, and Roberto Larages, 30, of Brooklyn, have already pleaded guilty to the charges. The arrest of Palase might not affect them, but for the Columbia students that is another case. All five are charged with felonies that are in the early stages of litigation and something like this might be used to strike a deal that would help the defense get a plea bargin.
While the "Ivy League" bust generated a wave of media for Brennan and Kelly, the reality is that the headline-seeking bust has blown up in their faces with the arrest of Palase. Now let's see what happens to the students that were arrested and whose lives were ruined because of the overzealous police policies.
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