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12 UI students arrested in dorm bust

BY MORGAN OLSEN | APRIL 21, 2010 7:30 AM

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Law-enforcement authorities say they worked with residence-hall staff for weeks leading up to a drug and alcohol raid that ended in the arrest of 12 University of Iowa students on Monday.

The students were arrested Monday night on numerous charges, including possession of controlled substances, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of burglary tools.

The bust was not random, said Charles Green, the assistant vice president for the UI police.

Instead, the Johnson County Drug Task Force — made up of Iowa City police, UI police, the Johnson County sheriff’s deputies, Coralville police, and the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement — was contacted by UI Residence Life officials regarding the issue.

“I want people to understand that we didn’t want to target students in any way, shape, or form just to see how many drugs we could get,” Green said. “We were approached and worked in collaboration with residence halls to maintain a safe and sober environment.”

Green said officials are unsure whether there are connections among the nine residents arrested from Currier and three from Mayflower, but he suspects there are.

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Green said 18 police officers from the Johnson County Drug Task Force came with 11 search warrants, nine for Currier and two for Mayflower. Green said such a volume of search warrants is very rare.

Iowa City police Officer Matt Hansen and drug dog Becky searched 13 rooms in Currier and Mayflower.

“I was shocked,” said UI freshman Shawn Niaz — the roommate of Nick Wilson, one of those arrested — pointing to trash bags that had been strewn across the floor and contents of drawers that had been emptied onto the floor. “It was nerve-racking to have them search through all my stuff. It was a mess when I got back to the room.”

According to the police report, officers found several bags of marijuana — which were individually packaged — a large amount of cash, and a digital scale in Wilson’s room.

At least six of the students were still being held in the Johnson County Jail on cash-only bonds late Tuesday afternoon. Bonds ranged from $6,000 to $10,000.

Bryant Balasa, who is being held on a $10,000 cash-bond, was charged with second- and fourth-degree criminal mischief for throwing water balloons and water bottles at passing vehicles on two dates in February. Green said he was unsure if the student was related to the drug raid, though the arrest was made around the same time in Currier.

“I think it’s sad,” said UI freshman Stephen Ausman. “Smoking weed is a pretty victimless crime. You would be hurt far more by a criminal record than just smoking weed.”

Residents nearby said the drug arrests weren’t surprising.

“I knew something was going on, but I didn’t know it was to this extent,” said UI freshman Eric Wozniak, who lives on the third floor of Currier, where officers executed several search warrants.

Though it’s unclear what university sanctions the 13 UI students arrested Monday night will face, Wilson said he will likely be asked to leave Currier. He declined to answer further questions.

Almost 175 UI residence-hall residents were sanctioned for possession or consumption of illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia in the last three years, and around 60 were suspended from the dorms for drug charges. The UI has a “one-strike” policy for illegal drug violations that occur in the residence halls, according to the Office of Student Services.

The number of drug arrests in residence halls at public four-year colleges around the country have increased in recent years, from around 5,500 in 2007 to more than 6,000 in 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Correction appended:
previous version of this story said 13 residents were arrested. However, one of the residents, Andrew Anderson, was charged with PAULA, but not arrested. The DI regrets the error.

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