Drug Bust in Mesa Court

A peculiar smell sparked a major drug bust on Feb. 16 in Lot 5 of the Mesa Court parking lot, when police arrested three students. The three Mesa Court residents were driving a 1997 Toyota 4runner when an officer observed the distinct scent of marijuana coming from the vehicle.
Inside, the officer uncovered 36 ounces of the drug – just under 2.25 pounds. Daniel Coccia and Dominick Coccia, both first-year undeclared majors, and Alexander Kim, a first-year psychology major were then booked at the Orange County Jail for possession of marijuana with intent to sell and conspiracy according to Lieutenant Baltazar De La Riva of the UC Irvine Police Department. Both accusations are felonies.
This was the largest amount of the controlled substance the police had found in over a year. De La Riva stated that the UCIPD typically oversees four cases of marijuana possession per month. However, most of the possession charges are less than an ounce.
While the freshmen face the possibility of prison time, the case is currently still under investigation in the District Attorney’s office.
“Taking into account the amount of marijuana seized here,” De La Riva said, “based on the packaging, the quantity and the manner of packaging and based on interviews [with each suspect], it is the officer’s opinion [they planned to sell it].”
However, though there is the slight possibility that the students may not receive prison time, they still face additional judicial proceedings through UCI and possibly through housing.
Despite the crime taking place around Mesa Court and involving its residents, Fred Lipscomb, executive director of student housing, stated that they have actually very little to do with disciplining students under such circumstances.
Lipscomb was unable to address the case specifically or state if housing would be involved at all.
“Every student is entitled to due process,” Lipscomb said. “So it would really depend on whether it was just possession or selling [a controlled substance].”
If the student is selling, the case is pushed beyond housing to the Dean of Students, who can use various means of discipline, from a simple warning or disciplinary probation to suspension or expulsion. As far as the process behind deciding which disciplinary option to use, Director of Student Affairs Edgar Dormitorio said that it varies from case to case, but is quite different from the court system.
If the student is being tried in court while school investigations are occurring, court investigations may be taken into consideration as evidence. However, the standard of evidence is different between the university and the courts.
“In the court process, they would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person broke the law,” Dormitorio said. “For the university process, it’s called ‘preponderance of the evidence,’ so it’s a lower standard … they’re different.”
Although it is possible for the court proceedings to happen concurrently with the administration jurisdiction, they still remain separate. Also, school proceedings are much faster, as Dormitorio said, and the school would come to a disciplinary conclusion in two months at the most.
Despite the lengthy process that these students will undergo, Dormitorio stated there is a goal behind it.
“I think that in our process,” Dormitorio said, “we try to be fair, and our main goal is to have a learning process take place.”