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A former Columbia University student is headed for drug-abuse treatment instead of prison after being charged as part of a drug-dealing ring at the college.
A judge OK'd the plan Tuesday for Christopher Coles, 21, of Philadelphia.
He will end up with a clean record if he successfully completes the inpatient treatment.
The alternative was a criminal record and probation offered by prosecutors in return for a guilty plea. If he completes the treatment successfully, the criminal case will be dropped.
Judge Ellen Coin rejected the government's objections to granting Coles the treatment option after the student's lawyer argued that he'd sought treatment before his arrest because of his marijuana addiction.
"He reached out to professionals available to him," attorney Marc Agnifilo said. "He's the perfect candidate for judicial diversion."
Prosecutors had argued that Coles and three co-defendants weren't eligible for treatment because their sales of drugs were motivated by profit not addiction.
"There are tapes of him selling police officers drugs. He was not stoned, not high," Assistant District Attorney Catherine Christian of the city's special narcotics prosecutor's office said Tuesday in court.
Coles was charged primarily with selling marijuana -- as much as a pound of it on one occasion.
Justice Michael Sonberg of state Supreme Court allowed Coles to seek admission to the treatment program and denied it to two co-defendants, Jose Stephan Perez of Atlanta and Michael Wymbs of New York.
Five students -- Coles; Perez; Wymbs; Adam Klein, 21, of Closter, N.J.; and Harrison David, 21, of Wrentham, Mass. -- were arrested in December after a five-month operation by the New York Police Department.