Double Standard in Drug Cases - the case of the "Pot Princess"

Cynics might say, "So what else is new?" but the fact remains that since the start the "war on drug" has targeted with all of the might of the American criminal justice system those who are from the proverbial "wrong side of the tracks."  Here are a few articles on one particular case where being rich helps escape the negative effects of this "war."  Too bad the millions of poor whites, poor blacks and other minorities have been unable to get the same deals.

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When Justice Isn't Blind: Double Standards for the Rich and Poor in New York

April 19, 2006

By Anthony Papa

http://www.counterpunch.org/papa04192006.html

New York's drug laws ensure that the privileged and connected receive leniency for the same offenses that send thousands of blacks and Latinos to prison.

Julia Diaco, the rich and connected so-called “Pot Princess” was sentenced on March 22 in Manhattan Supreme Court to five years’ probation for drug dealing.

Diaco was 18 years old when she was arrested for multiple sales of drugs to undercover narcotics officers from her dorm room at New York University. Despite having a “strong” case against her and facing up to 25 years in prison if convicted, she received probation upon completion of a drug rehab and education program.

This follows the high-profile case of Caroline Quartararo, a former spokeswoman on Rockefeller drug law reform for Gov. George Pataki, who received a similar minor sentence after being arrested with crack cocaine. Quartararo was given treatment and a $250 fine. She was arrested on December 20 for possessing three rocks of crack cocaine. She pleaded guilty to seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Cheri O’Donoghue, whose son Ashley is currently serving a sentence of seven to 21 years for a first-time nonviolent drug offense, said the cases of Julia Diaco and Caroline Quartararo prove that “if you are rich and privileged, you will likely receive compassion from the courts”.

“While I support the notion of compassion and access to treatment for people who use and abuse drugs,” said O’Donoghue, “the reality is that people of color who get caught up in the criminal justice system generally receive neither.”

While drug use rates are similar between blacks and whites, approximately 92 per cent of the people in prison on drug charges in New York are black and Latino. O’Donoghue’s 23-year-old son, who is black, sold cocaine to two white students, who in turn sought to resell the drugs on their Hamilton College campus.

The students were caught and received probation. Ashley O’Donoghue was left to rot in prison, another casualty of the draconian Rockefeller drug laws. He is one of more than 4,000 people sitting in New York state prisons convicted of B-level Rockefeller drug law felonies.

The modest reforms to the state’s drug laws in 2004 and 2005 have no impact on these B-level offenders. Gabriel Sayegh, director of the State Organizing and Policy Project of the Drug Policy Alliance says New Yorkers want to see meaningful Rockefeller Drug Law reform.

“Even after the reforms last year, the vast majority of people incarcerated under these failed laws are still languishing behind bars,” he said. “Our elected officials in Albany need to take action to enact real reform of these laws, so that young men like Ashley O’Donoghue can receive the same compassion as those who are rich, well-connected or are employed by the governor.”

Anthony Papa is the author of 15 To Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom (Feral House). He is currently a consultant for Drug Policy Alliance in New York City and writes for the Socialist Worker.

 

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NYU "Pot Princess" Sentenced to Treatment and Probation Despite Multiple Drug Sales

 

"Pot Princess" Joins Governor Pataki’s Former Spokeswoman Caroline Quartararo in Receiving "Slap on Wrist" for Drug Offenses

Privileged and Connected Receive Leniency, While Thousands of African Americans and Latinos Languish Behind Bars on Similar Crimes

http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/pressroom/pressrelease/pr032206.cfm

 

Julia Diaco, the so-called "Pot Princess" was sentenced yesterday in Manhattan Supreme Court to 5 years probation for drug dealing.  Ms. Diaco was 18 years old when she was arrested for multiple sales of drugs to undercover narcotic officers from her dorm room at NYU University.  Despite having a "strong" case against her and facing up to 25 years in prison if convicted, she received probation upon completing a drug rehab and education program. 

This follows another high profile case where Caroline Quartararo, a former spokeswoman on Rockefeller drug law reform for Governor Pataki received a similar minor sentence after being arrested with crack cocaine. Ms. Quartararo was given treatment and a $250 fine.  She was arrested on December 20th for possessing three rocks of crack cocaine.  Ms. Quartararo pleaded guilty to seventh degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

"Julia Diaco and Caroline Quartararo’s cases remind us that, if you are rich and privileged you will likely receive compassion from the courts," said Cheri O’Donoghue, whose son Ashley is currently serving a sentence of 7 -21 years, also for a first-time non-violent drug offense. "While I support the notion of compassion and access to treatment for people who use and abuse drugs," continued Cheri O’Donoghue, "the reality is that people of color who get caught up in the criminal justice system generally receive neither.  Although drug use rates are similar between blacks and whites, approximately 92 percent of the people in prison on drug charges in New York are Black and Latino." 

O’Donoghue’s son, a 23-year-old black man, sold cocaine to two white students, who in turn sought to re-sell the drugs on their Hamilton College campus.  The students were caught, and as with the Diaco and Quartararo, were given probation, while Ashley was left to languish in prison, another casualty of the draconian Rockefeller drug laws.  Ashley is one of more than 4,000 people sitting in NYS prisons convicted of B-level Rockefeller Drug Law felonies.  The B-Level offenders are a group of people for whom the modest reforms to the state’s drug laws in 2004 and 2005 did not have any impact.

"New Yorkers want to see meaningful Rockefeller Drug Law reform," said Gabriel Sayegh, director of the State Organizing and Policy Project of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Even after the reforms last year, the vast majority of people incarcerated under these failed laws are still languishing behind bars. Our elected officials in Albany need to take action to enact real reform of these laws, so that young men like Ashley O’Donoghue can receive the same compassion as those who are rich, well-connected, or, are employed by the Governor."

 

NYU's "Pot Princess" Get Probation

http://www.gothamist.com/archives/2004/09/10/nyus_pot_princess_get_probation.php

 

2004_04_nyupotbust.jpg


Julia Diaco, who was busted for selling drugs, including cocaine, as an NYU freshman earlier this year, received 18 months probation from a State Supreme Court Justice. The terms of her probation are that she must complete a 10-month residential treatment program at Clear View in Sandpoint, Idaho and then an 8-month vocational program. The ruling gives clues into what happens with offenders who get probation: If she completes the Clear View residential program, Diaco's guilty pleas ["criminal sale of a controlled substance (to an undercover officer) and criminal possession of a controlled substance (cocaine found in her dorm room when a search warrant was executed"] will be "converted to crimes that don't require jail time," then receiving 5 years probation. But if she violated the probation, she'll have to go to state prision. Let that be a lesson to you new NYU freshman: You can get caught if you deal to undercovers.

The Post has been loving the Julia Diaco story since the beginning. They dubbed her the "Pot Princess" and today's headline, "See Ya Tater, Pot Princess" certainly has a bit of fondness for the co-ed drug dealer. Today, the Post runs a photograph of Diaco going to court (left), looking quite polished and put together, and emphasizes that Diaco's family wealth played a part in her getting a sweet probation deal. A Legal Aid attorney tells the Post, "I would love for our clients to be offered the same deal. But Legal Aid wouldn't be representing a princess." Well, of course - money talks in this world. It's not right, but that's what happens. Diaco's lawyer says the probation at Clear View is not "the lap of luxury" and notes that while Diaco was selling a variety of drugs, Mary Jane was her biggest problem: "She had a very heavy marijuana habit. The morning began with marijuana, and the day ended with marijuana." Gothamist hopes that Diaco manages it through probation; she's the most high-profile bust of a college drug dealer we've heard of, and let's face it, they are a dime a dozen. We'd actually be interested in Law & Order: Class of 2009 where undercovers have to attend NYU, Columbia, Fordham, St. John's, Brooklyn College, Hunter, you name it - it's totally Law & Order meets 21 Jump Street.

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NYU ‘pot princess’ dodges a jail term

 

BY BARBARA ROSS
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

March 22, 2006

 

http://www.nydailynews.com/front/story/401976p-340372c.html

 

New York University's "pot princess" escaped with no jail yesterday after completing an 18-month rehab program and passing drug tests.

Julia Diaco, 20, of Rumson, N.J., made headlines when she was busted in April 2004 on charges of running a drug market featuring cocaine, marijuana, LSD, psychedelic mushrooms and other hallucinogens out of her freshman dorm at NYU.

Because she had completed her rehab program, Diaco was allowed yesterday to withdraw her guilty pleas to charges that could have put her behind bars for up to 25 years.

She was allowed to plea to lesser charges, and got off with five years' probation.

The petite co-ed was dubbed the "pot princess" because she grew up well-to-do in a big, fancy house in New Jersey.

But yesterday, her lawyer, Paul Schechtman, said Diaco "is a very different person than she was 18 months ago."

Diaco, who showed up in court in knee-high black leather stiletto boots and a conservative black suit, let her lawyer do all the talking. She could be seen comforting her mother who was flushed with emotion.

Diaco now attends a community college in New Jersey.


 

Pot Princess Finishes Rehab, Released Into Suburban Wild

http://www.gawker.com/news/nyu/pot-princess-finishes-rehab-released-into-suburban-wild-162114.php

March 22, 2006

We certainly hope you haven’t forgotten young Julia Diaco, the New Jersey rich girl who was busted in April of 2004 for dealing drugs to her classmates from her freshman dorm room at NYU (a smart businesswoman knows there’s less overhead if you do it from home). The young entrepreneur and savior of many a self-medicating student was facing up to 25 years in jail after originally pleading guilty, but after completing 18 months of rehab she has been permitted to cop to lesser charges, which got her 5 years on probation.

Lest you think this story has a happy ending, Diaco is attending community college in New Jersey.