Independent student content

BG Falcon Media

Independent student content

BG Falcon Media

Independent student content

BG Falcon Media

The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

Follow us on social
  • Review of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
    Let’s time-travel to the year 2012 and the world is raving about none other than Katniss Everdeen. I remember being in elementary school, begging my mother to let me dress up as her for my birthday. Now it’s over ten years later and I’m still just as excited for the new movie as I was […]
  • Found Family Books for the Holidays
    The holidays are quickly approaching and for some of us that means seeing our family. However, family has a loose definition. It could mean blood or who you were raised with. It could also mean people you’ve found during your life journey. Either way, the holidays are meant for spending quality time with those you […]

College plants narc on campus

By John Higgins Akron beacon journal (KRT)

In early 2004, the University of Akron arranged for a 35-year-old felon code-named Hulk to live in its residence halls and find students willing to sell him drugs.

It was part of a cooperative effort with campus police and the Summit County (Ohio) Drug Unit, a multi-agency task force, from November 2002 through August 2004 “to attempt to rid the campus community of any illicit drug activity and make it a safer place to study, work and socialize,” according to the university.

Hulk was a key witness against a graduate student, Charles Plinton, who was acquitted of drug trafficking by a jury, but found “responsible” by a university panel.

He was suspended for the fall 2004 semester. Plinton never returned to the university and took his own life on Dec. 12, 2005.

The Akron Beacon Journal asked to interview president Luis Proenza about the practice of using confidential informants and the campus judicial process that determined that Plinton had “sold drugs to a confidential informant” despite a jury’s verdict that he did not.

The university agreed to answer e-mailed questions.

Using informants ‘rare’

Hulk was given a fake schedule of classes and paid $50 for every drug deal he could set up.

The university does not inform parents that confidential informants with criminal records might be living among their children and will not say now whether such informants are on campus today.

“While the use of a confidential informant on campus is rare as far as we know, the university will not compromise the safety or integrity of possible criminal investigations by commenting on the tactics being employed by law enforcement agencies, especially in regard to the use of undercover agents,” according to the university’s response, e-mailed by spokesman Paul A. Herold.

The operation was in response to “reports of illegal drug sales in and around the residence halls. As part of that operation, a confidential informant was placed in one of the residence halls in February-April 2004.

“Both graduate and undergraduate students lived in that facility. The confidential informant was selected by the SCDU, in strict accordance with its policy.”

Only five university officials knew about and approved the operation: the chief of university police and his supervisor, the director of residence halls and his supervisor and the general counsel.

Proenza wasn’t told about the use of the confidential informant, though he did support working with the task force to combat campus drug use.

“The president of the university usually is not involved in the tactics of law enforcement on campus or in the day-to-day operations of our student judicial system,” the university wrote.

The university said it did not receive any complaints about Hulk’s conduct on campus.

“At least six arrests were made as a result of using the confidential informant, with criminal convictions resulting in every case but one.”

The one that didn’t result in a criminal conviction was Plinton, who came to Akron highly recommended for the master’s program in public administration and had received a tuition waiver and a stipend for research work in the department.

It is uncommon for students in his program to live in campus dorms, but Plinton was from out of state and needed inexpensive housing. Hulk was assigned a room in Wallaby Hall right next to Plinton, who allegedly sold Hulk marijuana on March 3 and March 11 while police observed from a distance.

Witnesses didn’t testify

A doctoral candidate testified in the criminal case, however, that Plinton was working with her in the Polsky building on March 3 at the same time police said he was across campus selling marijuana to Hulk. A professor who pays students out of grants involving public money signed Plinton’s time sheet more than a month before he was arrested.

Either Plinton was at work or he was selling drugs on March 3, yet neither the supervising professor nor the student has ever been asked by the university to explain this discrepancy.

The university said it was up to Plinton to have them testify in his defense.

“If Plinton and his attorney felt that their alleged testimony was key evidence to present in Plinton’s defense, they had the obligation to introduce those witnesses at the hearing board,” the university wrote.

Plinton did submit his not-guilty verdicts, signed time sheet and cell-phone records indicating no calls from Hulk to set up drug deals.

Plinton did not have an alibi for March 11, but police say that the same person sold drugs on both days, so if it wasn’t him on March 3, then it couldn’t have been him on March 11 either.

Plinton was found not guilty of felony drug trafficking in Summit County Common Pleas Court on Aug. 6, 2004.

Nevertheless, Charles Plinton and his attorney, Robert Meeker, appeared before the five-member university hearing board that month to answer the allegation that Plinton had “sold drugs to a confidential informant.”

Plinton had to represent himself. Meeker was allowed to attend as a silent adviser, but not silent and objected that the hearing was unfair.

Tape of hearing lost

The Beacon Journal and Plinton’s family asked for a copy of the official tape recording, but were told the tape had been lost, although the seven-page fill-in-the-blank report of the hearing was available.

The university explained that “in the year and one-half between the time of the hearing and the request for the records of the hearing, the university’s Office of Student Judicial Affairs, which maintains disciplinary records, was moved several times.

“Though it appears that the tape recording of that hearing was lost during transit, the entire paper record of the hearing exists intact.”

One of the main criticisms of campus hearing boards is that they use a lower standard of evidence to determine culpability than criminal courts do.

The standard in civil court is preponderance, i.e., 50 percent plus a little more of the evidence tips the scales against the defendant.

Ohio requires that all state universities use this standard for violent offenses. Otherwise, the University of Akron uses the “substantial” evidence standard, which is lower than preponderance.

Leave a Comment
Donate to BG Falcon Media

Your donation will support the student journalists of Bowling Green State University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to BG Falcon Media

Comments (0)

All BG Falcon Media Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *