University of Miami Student Fakes Cocaine in Dorm Room . . . University Has Student Arrested

200px-UMiamiSeal.svg170px-Man_sniffingJonathan Harrington, 21, thought he had a great joke when he heard that the University regularly inspected dorm rooms for drugs. Harrington took powdered sugar in lines to look like cocaine on his desk with a rolled up dollar bill and seven aspiring pills. The university police proceeded to do a field test and declared it to be real cocaine — leading to Harrington being charged with felony drug possession.

The case highlights the notoriously unreliable field tests. But the result is that the English major is facing five year in prison as well as expulsion. It will reportedly take weeks for the drugs to be tested and confirmed to be sugar.

Students have long objected to the lack of privacy in these drug sweeps and many no doubt applauded Harrington’s humorous mockery of the inspections. Here the housing officials called in the University of Miami police who admit that they saw that the tablets were marked aspirin but, with Harrington there telling them it was a joke, the field test said that he had left a huge amount of cocaine on his desk. He was handcuffed and taken away to jail.

Harrington will face arraignment next week on one felony count of cocaine possession.

54 thoughts on “University of Miami Student Fakes Cocaine in Dorm Room . . . University Has Student Arrested”

  1. calypso, There are many posts here where the insanely stupid and corrupt Education Industry, the inventors of “zero tolerance” combine w/ the police. It is a horribly toxic mix.

  2. Made me think of an interesting study on the presence of cocaine on U.S. currency:
    90 percent of U.S. bills carry traces of cocaine
    •Story Highlights
    • 100 percent of bills from a few large urban areas tested positive for cocaine

    • Amount of cocaine on money is not enough to cause health risks

    • Money can be contaminated by being put in counting machines with tainted bills

    updated 3:01 p.m. EDT, Mon August 17, 2009

    By Madison Park

    Decrease font Decrease font

    Enlarge font Enlarge font

    (CNN) — The term “dirty money” is for real.

    A chemistry professor said cocaine found on U.S. bills could provide insight about drug trends.

    A chemistry professor said cocaine found on U.S. bills could provide insight about drug trends.

    In the course of its average 20 months in circulation, U.S. currency gets whisked into ATMs, clutched, touched and traded perhaps thousands of times at coffee shops, convenience stores and newsstands. And every touch to every bill brings specks of dirt, food, germs or even drug residue.

    Research presented this weekend reinforced previous findings that 90 percent of paper money circulating in U.S. cities contains traces of cocaine.

    “When I was a young kid, my mom told me the dirtiest thing in the world is money,” said the researcher, Yuegang Zuo, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. “Mom is always right.”

    Scientists say the amount of cocaine found on bills is not enough to cause health risks.

    Money can be contaminated with cocaine during drug deals or if a user snorts with a bill. But not all bills are involved in drug use; they can get contaminated inside currency-counting machines at the bank.

    “When the machine gets contaminated, it transfers the cocaine to the other bank notes,” Zuo said. These bills have fewer remnants of cocaine. Some of the dollars in his experiment had .006 micrograms, which is several thousands of times smaller than a single grain of sand.

    Cities and cocaine
    Bills turned up positive for cocaine in these percentages in certain cities:
    100 percent: Detroit, Michigan; Boston, Massachusetts; Orlando, Florida; Miami, Florida; Los Angeles, California

    88 percent: Toronto, Canada

    77 percent: Salt Lake City, Utah

    75 percent: Brasilia, Brazil

    20 percent: Tokyo, Japan; Beijing, China

    0 percent: Zhuzhou, China

    Source: Yuegang Zuo, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

    Zuo, who spoke about his research at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society on Sunday, found that $5, $10, $20 and $50 bills were more likely to be positive for cocaine than $1 bills.

    “Probably $1 is a little too less to purchase cocaine,” Zuo said “I don’t know exactly [why]. It’s an educated guess.”

    For years, health agencies have advised people to wash their hands after touching cash for sanitary reasons. Disease-causing organisms such as staphylococcus aureus and pneumonia-causing bacteria have been detected in paper bills. According to a 2002 study published in the Southern Medical Journal, 94 percent of the tested bills had potentially disease-causing organisms.

    Adam Negrusz, an associate professor of forensic sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said he isn’t worried about the cleanliness of money in terms of public health.

    “I never think about this as a source of danger. We have more things which can be potentially harmful,” said Negrusz, who was not involved in Zuo’s study.

    Cocaine binds to the green dye in money, he said.

    In 1998, Negrusz published similar findings after comparing freshly printed dollar bills that were not released to the public and money collected from a suburb near Chicago, Illinois. In the study, 92.8 percent of the bills from the public had traces of cocaine, but the uncirculated bills tested negative.

    Although the contaminated bills do not affect health, Negrusz said, they could cause in a false positive drug test if a person, such as a law enforcement officer or banker, handles contaminated currency repeatedly.

    “Imagine a bank teller who’s working with cash-counting machine in the basement of the bank,” Negrusz said. “Many of those bills, over 90 percent, are contaminated with cocaine. There is cocaine dust around the machines. These bank tellers breathe in cocaine. Cocaine gets into system, and you can test positive for cocaine. … That’s what’s behind this whole thing that triggered testing money for drugs.”

    Zuo hopes to compile the data from his research to form a drug use map, saying it could provide insights about regional cocaine use.

    In his study, the rate of drug-contaminated money varied geographically from urban to less populated areas. A hundred percent of the sample bills collected from major cities such as Miami, Florida; Boston, Massachusetts; and Detroit, Michigan, tested positive for cocaine, but samples collected from smaller cities such as Salt Lake City, Utah; Niagara Falls, New York;and Dearborn, Michigan, had 87 to 67 percent.

    Compared with currency from Brazil, Canada, China and Japan, U.S. bills had the highest percentage of cocaine, with 90 percent of 234 bank notes contaminated. Canada followed with 85 percent and Brazil with 80 percent. China and Japan had the lowest, with 20 and 12 percent respectively.

    “Actually, we were surprised to find cocaine in Chinese bank note,” Zuo said after analyzing 112 samples from China.

    After the Communist Party took over, the country was relatively free of drugs from 1949 until the 1980s because of harsh punishments against substance use, he said. Two years ago, Zuo collaborated with Beijing scientists on testing bank notes and didn’t find any contamination with cocaine.

    “In the last year, 2008, we found trace amounts of cocaine,” he said.

  3. Snort! Nice donut joke, Nick.

    My nephew was suspended from sports and put in detention at middle school for mimicking cocaine use with a Pixy Stick (on a dare of course). Apparently “zero tolerance” applies even when no policy or law has actually been broken …

  4. Tyger, I worked for the prosecutors office in KC. I had a cop tell me once, “I would have popped him on marijuana possession also but I didn’t have any on me.” He wasn’t kidding. I know the good and bad in cops. That’s the bad.

  5. Cops have access to real cocaine and other drugs when they make arrests for real drug offenses. What’s to keep them from pocketing samples before the whole lot is turned in for evidence, then salting the suspected evidence when the next case is a little doubtful? This would increase their arrest records and make sure the druggies go to jail more often. College students ARE all druggies, right? And police ARE all looking to better their stats when performance quotas and other pressures are on them, right?

  6. “I doubt the test was in error. I suspect the cop was pissed and decided to reward the student for his clever trick with a trip to jail.” -someone, up-thread

    Certainly a possibility. Better to have handled it with a sense of humor, perhaps.

  7. We’ve heard of fire-fighters intentionally starting forest fires, doctors intentionally treating non-existent illnesses, auto service folks identifying non-existing car problems. Why not police arresting non-criminals for similar reasons?

  8. Might as well charge the kid with rape as well, I’m sure there’s the same level of evidence for that.

    Increasingly our judicial system looks like it was designed by the Red Queen.
    “Sentence first—verdict afterwards.

  9. I doubt the test was in error. I suspect the cop was pissed and decided to reward the student for his clever trick with a trip to jail.

    I represented several people over the years that were arrested after white residue was found on the floors of their cars. I recall that one time it turned out to be deodorant.

  10. Sorry, Darren, but if the cases cited by anon are true, and Jolly Rancher candies tested positive for methamphetamine, then the tests have a far too high false positive rate (which should be zero if the test can result in arrest.

    That’s Monty Python science.

    “V: What also floats in water?
    P1: Bread
    P3: Apples
    P2: Very small rocks
    (V looks annoyed)
    P1: Cider
    P3: Grape gravy
    P1: Cherries
    P3: Mud
    King: A Duck!
    (all look and stare at king)
    V: Exactly! So, logically…
    P1(thinking): If she ways the same as a duck… she’s made of wood!
    V: And therefore,
    (pause & think)
    P3: A witch! (P1: a witch)(P2: a witch)(all: a witch!)”

  11. “…In fact, the quick drug tests used in the field are notoriously wonky. In 2009, a Kissimmee man was arrested after the breath mints in his car tested positive for crack cocaine. In 2011, a birdwatcher in Weston was arrested when her sage tested positive for marijuana. In 2013, police cuffed a 25-year-old Coney Island man after his Jolly Rancher candies tested positive for methamphetamine. In February, a Minnesota man was arrested when his vitamin powder tested positive for amphetamines.” -from the linked article

  12. There are a number of supposedly scientific tests used by law enforcement that are falling apart now that actual scientists are looking at them. Bite marks, blood splatter, and other supposedly scientific forensic tests were pushed by interested parties, accepted without proof by courts, and now place a large burden on defendants to prove junk science is junk science.
    These field kits clearly are part of that category of junk science. Put them up there with K-9 searches where an estimated 60% or more of the time where a hit is claimed by police nothing is found. I can’t think of another field of work where being wrong 60% of the time is acceptable and still considered admissible in court.

  13. could be that the guy doing the field testing thought it would be even funnier if he went along with the joke.

  14. It’s tempting to say this kids an idiot (his parents must be thrilled) but given he’ll probably come out of this with a lucrative civil suit, maybe he’s a genius that will soon be copied by others.

    At least he didn’t decide to prank the cops by aiming a fake gun at them.

  15. It’s not looking good for Mr. Harrington from a probable cause point of view. The field test kits can lead to what is known as a Presumptive Positive result which the courts have accepted as sufficient for probable cause purposes but insufficient as proof in court. That proof will need to come from a state certified lab.

    I recognize there have been errors but I have to disagree that these field test kits are notoriously unreliable. These kits have been around for decades and they are subject to rigid standards and have been recognized in most every court where they are approved for usage. If there is an erroneous, false positive it most likely is due to operator error or misinterpretation of the results. In fact, with experience you can tell (though it is not admissible in court) how potent the substance is by how quickly it returns a positive result. Moreover, let’s look at this from a practical standpoint. If for rhetorical purposes these kits were notoriously unreliable there would be tremendous liability on behalf of the manufacturer for being responsible for the unlawful jailing of too many individuals.

    Now let’s look at some other information. Aspirin in the proximity of cocaine is sometimes found as it is used often to “cut” the cocaine to reduce its purity. What happens in this manner is the aspirin pills are powdered and then mixed in with cocaine. So if there was a situation where someone possessed cocaine for the purposes of distribution, the arrangement might be likely in this case with regard to the amount seized.

    I don’t know, since I do not have the police report to view, if there were other observations of the alleged cocaine that gave the police the probable cause it was cocaine, but if the officers are inexperienced with field test kits and the appearance of cocaine there might be a problem in this case. Again, I don’t know either way but it is not surprising that people make lies to cover up criminal activity and someone saying “this is all a joke” is not conclusive of innocence.

    We’ll just have to see what the lab returns before we have more certainty either way.

    Somewhat off topic but I too disagree with these administrative searches, which for all intents and purposes are simply fishing expeditions for criminal charging pursuits by a government agency. Just because they are students does not mean that they must relinquish their civil rights. They are adults for the most part.

  16. Those same tests that give a false positive and put people in jail.

    Mr. Harrington may be an ass, but the cops are violating civil rights when they use an investigatory tool that is unreliable.

  17. Notoriously unreliable field tests? You mean the kind that have powdered sugar testing positive for cocaine?

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