Georgetown Law Student Sentenced For Drug Dealing

LAWSTUDENT0011359675490This morning we have a sad story of a young man with limitless potential who is now heading to jail. Georgetown law student Marc Gersen was Phi Beta Kappa at Georgetown and a champion debater who secured a scholarship to study at the University of California, Berkeley. He then entered Georgetown law school and worked with prisoners in the D.C. jail. That work however may have been a bit too close. Gersen was arrested and accused of using a social network to sell methamphetamine.

Gerson, 31, was arrested selling methamphetamine outside Beacon Hotel in Northwest Washington. In his exchange with the court in his sentencing hearing, Gerson said that he was using the drugs himself and that his sideline as a drug dealer took over his life. He appears to have become addicted to drug while in graduate school at Berkeley and later began selling methamphetamine. While he earned a master’s degree in economics, he dropped out of the doctoral program.

He was arrested for felony possession of ecstasy in California in 2009 and then later charged again with drug possession in 2010. It is not clear if these arrests were disclosed to Georgetown.

While at Georgetown, Gerson went to California several times to purchase methamphetamine and worked with others to distribute the drugs. Then the operation collapsed during Thanksgiving when Gersen was back in Florida with his family. Gersen learned that D.C. police had searched the 18th Street apartment he shared with his then-roommate and co-conspirator, Michael Talon. They found a small amount of methamphetamine, packaging materials and chemicals used to manufacture the drug GHB. Gersen returned to D.C. and withdrew $70,000 in cash from a safe-deposit box and transferred it to his mother. It is not clear where his mother thought this money came from but she was not charged. Gersen however did not do the logical thing and stop his operation. Instead, police got a tip that he was dealing at the Beacon Hotel. Police found more than 500 grams of methamphetamine.

Louis Michael Seidman, a Georgetown professor, wrote to the court on Gersen’s behalf, asking the court for mercy for “an extraordinary young man who has made some extraordinary mistakes.”

Gersen will now go to jail for four years by U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton.

It is a sad case of wasted talent.

In terms of a different form of talent, the “Wingador” eating champ has been indicted on drug charges. Five-time wing-eating champion known as “El Wingador” has been indicted in New Jersey on cocaine distribution charges. William Simmons is charged with four counts of possession of a controlled dangerous substance and one count of manufacturing or distribution of more than a half ounce of cocaine.

Source: Washington Post

54 thoughts on “Georgetown Law Student Sentenced For Drug Dealing

  1. Four years seems light given todays drug hysteria and similar cases.

    He probably needed the money to pay for law school, I hear its pretty expensive. But this probably shoots his ability to get a license to practice. How can someone so smart be so stupid?

  2. “He was arrested for felony possession of ecstasy in California in 2009 and then later charged again with drug possession in 2010. It is not clear if these arrests were disclosed to Georgetown.” Jonathan Turley

    Perhaps background checks should be part of the admission process.

  3. Well, he can now use his talents in prison as a real jailhouse lawyer. He can consider it something akin to a post grad course in learning. Hopefully, he will not get to join the ranks of lawyers once he gets out, since he has shown a persistent inability to understand the rules and reasoning of law. Worst case scenario, he becomes a prosecutor, then ALL of us are at risk of jail.

  4. wasn’t his first offense, caught him dealing and manufacturing with 500+ grams and he only got four years.

    he got off lite.

  5. Why is this sad? Do most drug dealers have law professors writing pleas of mercy on their behalf because they supposedly made mistakes? No. He got a light sentence. Perhaps he can use the time in prison to repent of his mistakes.

  6. Fortunately for Mr. Marc Gersen, he will be fine after he comes out of jail (at least according to the following study):

    “White Convicts As Likely to Be Hired As Blacks Without Criminal Records”:

    It also speaks to the student demographics at GU Law School (for 2012 records, it is less than 8% African Americans), and why the admission council continues to pass over minority candidates without a criminal background (and yes, background checks are done on all students).

  7. Not any more sad than the thousands of clients I’ve worked with who are shipped off to jail and prison. Of course, they don’t have all this tremendous promising talent. There just ordinary folks who get hooked up in the great American drug scene.

    Mr. Gersen can still make wonderful contributions to society (though it’s so much harder with a record) though not as the highly respected cloak of a lawyer he would rather have donned. And even as a lawyer, are we sure he would have worked for the benefit of society?

    Sorry if I’m a bit grumbly this a.m.

  8. It took 13 years of prohibition, to find out it was never going to work. They didn’t repeal prohibition because booze was determined to now be healthy for people. They repealed it to get rid of all the crime & corruption associated with it.

    And all the cost in policing, prosecuting, and imprisoning people.

    Would you sentence a guy that offered you a beer from his sixpack to YEARS in prison?

    Well before prohibition it would have been legal to offer the beer, but during the 13 years of prohibition, he could have been sentenced to YEARS in prison for offering you a beer.

    Now of course it’s legal to again offer your buddy a beer from your sixpack. No prison sentence.

    See? The morality of the situation NEVER changed, ONLY THE LAWS!

    And since when is having the punishment worse than the offense done any good? Authorities always say how drugs destroy people’s lives, and YEARS in prison don’t?!?!

    We need to legalize ALL drugs…(please don’t freak out and think I mean they ALL should be freely available)

    If they WANT to be medicated, fine…lets get the freaks off the worst of this stuff, so they aren’t out killing innocent people!

  9. Four years for over a pound of meth?

    The ONLY way he could have gotten this sentence was by ‘substantial cooperation’. Meaning he had to snitch someone out and get them in more trouble than he was in.

    It used to be a major mark against one to be called a snitch, now it is socially acceptable, believe it or not even in prison since so many of them have done it. It is the new normal.

  10. To continue to do the same thing after it has been proven to be a failure over and over again, is insanity. End the “War on Drugs” now! Yes this white male got an “easy” sentence based on his skin color and his economic class, but to focus o that misses the point. Humans have been using and inventing mind altering substances for millenia. It’s part of what many people do. Providing they do not hurt anyone in the course of their use, it’s one of society’s damned business. I say this as a somewhat expert in this field since I have actually run large drug treatment programs and have extensively worked with addicts. It is a futile, zero sum game for the most part and best treated as a medical/psychological issue, than a criminal one.

    The “War on Drugs” actually creates more addictive behavior than acting as a means to prevent it.

  11. “How can someone so smart be so stupid?”

    That’s easy. He’s a meth addict. This is a waste of talent. For those indicating it’s no different than thousands of other cases–they’re right! Time to realize the War on Drugs is a huge failure.

  12. Apparently addiction played a part in his crimes. But there are also reports that he felt he was too smart to get caught.

    One has to wonder whether addiction or arrogance was key to his downfall.

    His sentence demands attention. The WAPO reports that he could be out as early as 2014.

    My recollection is that this web site recently reported the story of a woman, who was only peripherally involved in distribution due to her boy friend who hid drugs in her apartment, yet received decades – essentially a life sentence.

    Something is going very wrong with our criminal justice system when

    minor actors receive decades,

    key player receive a few years at club Fed, and

    bankers who run money laundering programs to enable world wide distribution of drugs pay fines or receive no punishment at all.

    I would argue that the single most important factor enabling drug distribution today is DOJ and the choices government attorneys make in prosecuting participants in major drug distribution organizations.

    As for Gerson, it is not necessarily a tragedy that he will likely never work for a white shoe law firm. When we consider his apparent intelligence and capacity for work, my guess is that he will eventually find a place to apply his background in economics and law.

    In a few years we may be hearing much from Mr. Gerson. I hope so.

  13. Mike, you know that addiction is treated as a criminal issue because of the hangover of moral opprobrium that attaches to “illegal” drug us (i.e., pop all the prescription meds you want and we’re all cool worth that) among the populace and therefore the PTB. Or is is the other way around??? And since the criminalization of behavior, and the private industry that has grown up to service the output of the so-called justice system has been far more lucrative and sanctimoniously wielded than the manby-pamby treatment component (which is seen as a reward rather than a punishment for the evil of addiction), poof, we get more of the same.

    You could take all the so-called drug experts in Washington and it would be hard to find a seriously powerful voice for sanity. Hint: the PTB don’t want to hear it because, truth is, it shows them up for the (ignorant) hypocrites they are.

  14. Mike and BFM:

    Again, the reason for his low sentence could only be due to him snitching out others. It is euphemistically called ‘substantial assistance’.

    5K1.1–Substantial Assistance to Authorities:

    Upon motion of the government stating that the defendant has provided substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of another person who has committed an offense, the court may depart from the guidelines.

  15. If we REALLY concerned with talented folks going to prison for drug dealing, there would be an entire website dedicated to it instead of just one post on a blog. Of course, since a good number of those folks are African American, I doubt the same level of care and concern would apply – even if they too were in law school. #doublestandards

  16. People are driven more by emotions than intelligence; your rational mind can really only help to invent alternatives and point out risks and likely consequences, but the emotions are king. If the rational advisory does not trigger negative emotions to fight the positive anticipation, the game is lost.

    Addictions become addictions due to positive emotional feedback, they cause the release of dopamine that makes people feel good. Addiction is an emotional drive to increase dopamine levels in the brain; some drugs kill dopamine receptors or cause the brain to release higher levels of dopamine antagonists, and so the addiction escalates.

    If he was smarter, he would have taken a controlled dose of meth that was just enough to satisfy his addiction long enough to rationally commit himself, irrevocably, to some course of action that would break his addiction. It is a pity he did not apply his intelligence to his own dilemma.

  17. “You could take all the so-called drug experts in Washington and it would be hard to find a seriously powerful voice for sanity. Hint: the PTB don’t want to hear it because, truth is, it shows them up for the (ignorant) hypocrites they are.”


    Amen again and again. We declaim people as experts when they clearly have a vested economic interest in the dumb policies they promote.

  18. What Mike said.

    And Tony? Apparently you’ve never met a meth addict. It’s not a substance that engenders logical thought. Quite the opposite actually. While not directly neurotoxic, part of the side effects are lesions on the brain. Most doctors will tell you meth use doesn’t raise the question of “if” it will make you schizophrenic but rather “when”. It is an insidious and, yes, evil substance.

  19. Once addiction starts it becomes self-perpetuating and all-consuming and who you were before becomes irrelevant. 500 grams is 17 ounces. That’s a lot of meth and not casual dealing to pay for your own habit.

    Addicts always think they’re too clever to get caught. This goes with the territory.That he kept on dealing after the search shows how deep the addiction had its claws in him.

    And yes, I have been there… Meth nearly took me down many years ago.

  20. Meth is the high capacity automatic weapon of drugs. My libertarian mind knows the war on drugs is a sham. But, don’t for one second think all “drugs” are alike..not even close.

  21. Promising on paper, but perhaps just another rich sociopath or a suburban hipster whose never had to deal with real consequences. I knew people in college who worked their way through school as marijuana dealers at a time when marijuana uses was very prevalent and laws in our state had been eased. Many of the people who were further up the chain in this world were the children of wealthy families, people in high end businesses that dealt in cash, and people with political connections. It’s easy to see him as part of one of those groups–some of the business people may have needed extra money (it tended to be bust/boom fields like antiques), but the rich kids did it for sport. Fundamentally, he seems no brighter than a dropout from a dysfunctional public school system and he deserves exactly the sam e penalty they would receive.

  22. Nick S, I don’t think one needs a ‘libertarian mind’ to recognize the war on drugs is a sham. But maybe you weren’t saying that. Or maybe you can convince us otherwise😉

  23. @Gene: I think you misunderstood my post. My point was that addiction is driven by emotion. If the physical side effects also impair rationality (just like alcohol addiction does), then there is a feedback of relying more and more on emotion, and less and less on rationality.

    My younger sister was burned over 60% of her body as a child, the result of a neighborhood prank by teens. She is still (at 48) severely scarred and often in pain; which has led her to a lifetime of various addictions, and the inevitable associations with her fellow addicts and suppliers, and a lifetime of struggling to keep her out of jail. I would not call my relationships with her “friends” intimate, but I have had a few decades of exposure.

  24. “My libertarian mind knows the war on drugs is a sham. But, don’t for one second think all “drugs” are alike..not even close.”


    All illegal drugs are not equal and to my mind both meth and crack equally sit atop the pile of drugs that are harmful beyond belief. However, if legalized and cheap, their impact on society would be minimized. I remember when heroin sat atop the pile and the glee in the faces of police who announced every new drug bust. All it did was allow the dealers to raise the price and the Junkies having to commit more crimes to pay for their habit.I my opinion addiction in all forms is the result of mental illness, despair, or physical pain. It is a mental and medical issue, rather than a criminal issue.

  25. Mike says: “The “War on Drugs” actually creates more addictive behavior than acting as a means to prevent it.”

    I think there’s an abundance of evidence to back up that statement. And it also fits in with human psychology.

  26. “It is a mental and medical issue, rather than a criminal issue.”

    Good point. Imagine the results if the resources devoted to the war on drugs were applied to research and treatment of drug addiction.

  27. I have met a couple of students in college who sold drugs, they were not good people. It doesnt matter how smart you are or how ambitious, you dont sell drugs like meth to people.

    We are lucky that nitwit was culled from the heard early, there is no telling the destruction a person like that could achieve with a law degree and a quick smile.

    he is a scum bag however you weigh it, brilliance isnt an excuse and doesnt prevent a person from being evil.

    At 31, this is a man with a fully formed character. Apparently he isnt as good as his resume may lead one to conclude.

  28. “This morning we have a sad story of a young man with limitless potential who is now heading to jail.”


    One is always limited — or liberated — by his character.

  29. I agree that this is a waste, but I disagree with the practice that this man should receive a lesser penalty because he is so accomplished in his law studies.

    should he fare better before the court than a man who is of average or lesser intelligence who committed the same offense? The less connected, wealthy, and gifted should be just as equal before the eyes of the court. Last I checked common law systems went away from people being acquitted because they could read or had degrees.

  30. DonS, I saw the war on drugs was insane back in the 70’s. I worked @ a maximum security Federal prison. And, you could get any drug you were willing to pay for if you were an inmate. It’s basic supply/demand w/ the bonus for the supplier being you NEED their product if you’re addicted.

  31. “During Thanksgiving break in Florida, Gersen learned that the D.C. police had searched the 18th Street apartment he shared with his then-roommate and co-conspirator, Michael Talon, who has also pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing in April. Officers, acting on a tip, found small amounts of methamphetamine, packaging materials and chemicals used to manufacture the drug GHB, according to court documents.” WaPo article This guy was also making GHB, the date rape drug. It is one thing to be an addict but a manufacturer of the date rape drug.

  32. I’ve been clean and sober a long time so I can say this.

    Q. What’s the difference between an alcoholic and an addict?

    An alcoholic will steal your money, spend it on booze, come back, burst into tears and admit he stole the money.

    An addict will steal your money, spend it on drugs, come back … and help you look for the money.

  33. ” One former Georgetown Law classmate of Gersen’s took issue with the article for that reason:

    I thought the article was almost dishonestly positive. I don’t think most people would describe him as “brilliant.” Social awkwardness aside, he was sorta rude / obnoxious… often missed class… was not a good student. Odd that [Professor] Seidman is quoted in article; maybe he and Seidman became close. I thought he was a jackass to Seidman in 1L lecture. and [Professor] Randy Barnett also couldn’t stand him; Barnett is ultra uptight about starting class on time and not walking in late…. and Marc would stroll in 10 minutes late every single day. It became almost a comedic thing. Barnett would scold him every day and seemed genuinely angry.

    I don’t have anything against Marc personally, and I don’t mean to kick him when he’s down. But these are my honest thoughts / observations. The Washington Post piece just [didn’t seem like] an accurate portrait of Marc…. I mean, the guy really did not have his act together at all. In hindsight, this totally makes sense. The whole ‘such a surprise!’ tone of the article seemed off-base.

    [I]t’s definitely strange, but on the other hand, if we had to pick a person in the section who was a meth dealer, we would have picked him….” Above the Law

  34. I wonder what his student loan debt is. That seventy grand could pay off some debts. It should be a condition of parole when he gets out of stir.

  35. So there’s the disconnect. Somehow to a bunch of folks this becomes the equivalent of white collar crime. Horrible, inconceivable, tragic. But if it’s some blue collar due, well, just another low life doing what low life’s do.

    Many would say that it is heartless, vengeful, and cold not to particularly weep over this guy. But I’ve worked with too many addicts over time to fall for that. Even in treatment. for god sakes, many “white collar” types predictably try to set up the “I’m better than you” scam. And, to be honest, most others don’t buy it.

    I don’t want to get into a big head about this, but it is valid to note significant behavioral traits among folks addicted to different classes of drugs. So not all stereotypes are universally true for all addicts and abusers.

  36. SWM, I’m w/ you. But my take on the tone of the piece was that it was elitist. Meth dealers are supposed to be hillbillies and crack dealers gang bangers. Actually, there are quite a few “upscale” meth dealers since it is the drug of choice for the gay community. Got to stay skinny if you’re gay, otherwise you’re in the lower caste.

  37. “On the other hand, it could be argued that he got off too easy. Here’s one opinion from a reader, responding to defenders of Gersen:

    Wow. The rationalization going on here is mind-boggling. Addiction is a mental health problem that we don’t address well enough. Dealing is an exploitation of that mental health problem for profit. Might feel sympathy for him on the first, not for the second. Methinks that if the meth dealer had been an inner-city kid who turned to meth, and then to dealing, to escape the fact that he had few good options for success in life, rather than a pretty white boy who started using meth when he blew his dissertation and threw away every opportunity given him, he wouldn’t be getting off with a 4-year sentence, a comfy prison close to mommy and daddy, and a sympathetic article in the Washington Post.” Above the Law

  38. It is sad that anyone gets addicted to Meth. Gerson warrants less sympathy precisely because he is so bright. He was dealing. A pusher is a pusher. How many other lives did he help ruin?

  39. Nothing like an article like this to bring out all the pro drug types with all their idiotic rationales.

    Apparantly it is not bad enough that 12 and 13 yo kids get access to and use achoholic drinks and then go on to wreck their lives. All other drugs should be legalised too so your children will have much easier access to them as well. Yeah. Good idea. The more wasted lives the better.

    This guy is just another low life drug dealer who would not have cared one iota who he sold drugs to or what havoc they caused to the lives of people using them. There is nothing smart about this guy. He got addicted to drugs because he is a fool and then he sold them to make money just to prove that he is an even greater fool.

    Meth is one nasty drug which requires little to get addicted and then wreck your life. So yeah. Lets make it legal. Morons.

  40. nick spinelli
    1, February 1, 2013 at 6:04 pm
    Actually, there are quite a few “upscale” meth dealers since it is the drug of choice for the gay community. Got to stay skinny if you’re gay, otherwise you’re in the lower caste.

    stay classy,bro

    p.s. several motorcycle clubs are heavily invested in the meth trade. most wouldn’t qualify as being upscale, skinny, or gay.

    and most gay people i know that use/have used drugs use pretty much the same as anybody else.

  41. Taking meth, even once, is stupid. Dealing meth is morally criminal, as is the making of the date rape drug. This guy got a good deal.

  42. One need only disclose on the law school application…. If not then its nearly impossible to get a license….. This is a sad story…. A mental giant taken down by a substance…. Because of societal pressure to succeed…..

  43. Despite my disgust at drug dealers I acknowledge that our prohibition on drugs doesn’t work. I have long felt that marijuana should be legalized. There’s no logical argument for keeping it illegal. Any argument to keep it illegal could be used to advocate the criminalization of alcohol, which is no less a drug. I cringe at the thought of decriminalizing meth because it is so insidious but I find it difficult to come up with the logic for keeping any of these drugs illegal. Alcohol is insidious as well. It has harmed my family as has meth. Our war on drugs is simply not working.

    The argument that decriminalizing a drug makes it easier for children to get is backwards. If pot were legal and sold in controlled venues, like alcohol beverage control licensed stores, then it would actually be harder for young people to get.

    Legalization would not change the number of pot smokers who get behind the wheel. Legalization of alcohol did not keep drunk drivers off the road, did it?

    The percentage of prisoners who are jailed for violent crimes is considerably higher for people who were under the influence of alcohol than it is for those who were under the influence of pot or for any other drug. That’s drug use, not drug sales. If you don’t believe me then find the stats yourself on DOJ’s website.

    We need to start treating drug use and abuse as a health issue rather than as a crime issue.

  44. AY,
    So Gerson is a victim to be pitied? Such a mental giant could not find a legal or ethical means to success? He was ignorant that meth is addictive and hurts people? The argument is peer pressure and that society should be ashamed of itself?

  45. Besides drugs and alcohol take the best of any addicts character…. No bd there is nothing much else to say….dry drunks are more do than sober drunks

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