DENVER
04/15/2013 06:49 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Mary Essa, CU-Boulder Student, Takes Plea Deal In Pot Brownie Incident

The second former University of Colorado student accused of sickening a professor and seven classmates with pot-infused brownies in December took a similar plea deal Monday, pleading guilty to one felony and getting a two-year deferred sentence.

Mary Essa, 19, pleaded guilty to one count of inducing consumption of a controlled substance by fraudulent means -- a Class 5 felony. In exchange for the plea, 17 other felonies in the case were dropped and Essa's guilty plea will be withdrawn and the charge dismissed if she completes the terms of her deferred sentence.

Essa was also ordered to pay half of the $7,055 of restitution in the case, perform 120 hours of community service and write letters to all the victims.

Essa's co-defendant Thomas Cunningham, 21, took a similar plea deal in March and is also serving a two-year deferred sentence. Both originally were charged with eight counts of second-degree assault and eight counts of inducing the consumption of a controlled substance as well as one count each of conspiracy to commit second-degree assault and conspiracy to induce consumption of a controlled substance.

According to police and court records, Essa and Cunningham brought marijuana-laced brownies to their history class as part of "bring food day," but did not tell anyone else in the class that the brownies were laced with THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

Later that day, assistant professor Celine Dauverd and several students complained of symptoms including dizziness, anxiety and loss of consciousness. Dauverd and two students were hospitalized after ingesting the brownies.

CU police said both Cunningham and Essa subsequently admitted the brownies contained marijuana.

"I feel the deepest amount of regret and sorrow for the people my actions affected and the way they were harmed and sickened," said Essa, who added she was sorry to CU for the damage to its reputation the incident may have cause.

Essa told Boulder District Judge Roxanne Bailing she initially did not know the brownie's would be eaten by other people, but did not stop Cunningham when she found out they would be eating them or when they became sick.

"There wasn't much thinking, it was a pretty impulsive lapse in judgment, and I was not expecting what happened to happen," Essa said. "I was just in a state of shock and fear when it did happen."

Essa's attorney Jon Banashek said Essa went into a intensive wilderness rehabilitation program and decided to volunteer with an overseas organization called Choice Humanitarian.

"Ms. Essa's decisions were horrid in this case, and she understands that, but she has been as proactive as one can be," Banashek said.

Prosecutor J.P. Martin did say the deferred sentence will be unsupervised, since Essa will be overseas for three to six months while working with Choice Humanitarian. Martin said he was willing to make the concession since Essa has been proactive in her rehabilitation.

Essa will still have to stay out of legal trouble, and the work with Choice Humanitarian will count as her 120 hours of community service.

Bailin said she felt the plea was appropriate given what she heard.

"I think the deferred sentence is very appropriate given Ms. Essa's age, lack of criminal history, true remorse, her proactive search for treatment and support, and also her decision about giving back to others," Bailin said.

But Bailin added that the case showed every action could have severe consequences, even if the defendants didn't foresee or intend them.

"What if one of the victims had been able to get in a car?" she said. "It's just this long wave of potential consequences and luckily none of that happened."

If Essa violates the terms of her deferred sentence, she could be sentenced to1 to 3 years in prison. ___

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