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Student pleads guilty in Columbia drug ring

NEW YORK (AP) -- A Columbia University student accused of selling a prescription stimulant as part of a campus drug-dealing ring pleaded guilty Tuesday in an agreement that may spare him jail time and a felony record.

Jose Stephan Perez, who held a prestigious scholarship when he and four fellow students were arrested last year, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony attempted drug possession charge. He'll be allowed to withdraw that plea and plead guilty to a drug misdemeanor in a year if he performs 300 hours of community service, passes monthly drug tests and avoids getting arrested again.

His attorney, Peter M. Frankel, said the plea was "the appropriate outcome."



Federal role sought in probe of 11 bodies

OAK BEACH (AP) -- The Justice Department should take over the probe into 11 bodies found along a remote New York beach highway over the past year, the attorney for a woman whose daughter's body was among those discovered said Tuesday. John Ray spoke Tuesday at a news conference near where the remains of Shannan Gilbert, 24, were found last week. Gilbert's mother, Mari, also attended the event.

Investigators believe a possible serial killer -- perhaps more than one -- is responsible for 10 of the bodies. Police have said they don't think Gilbert was an 11th victim; they think she accidentally drowned. Mari Gilbert, however, said she believes her daughter was a victim of a serial killer. Ray faulted local authorities for publicly disagreeing about the number of killers.

Among the victims was former Buffalo-area resident Melissa M. Barthelemy.



Ethics board meets somewhat publicly

ALBANY (AP) -- New York State's new ethics enforcement board met Tuesday for the first time partly in public, revealing that board members receive $300 for each day they attend meetings, members will be asked to sign "non-disclosure" agreements barring public comment and that its secretive practices will continue.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics' hourlong public session was spent mostly on introductions. That was sandwiched by two closed-door executive sessions. The ethics board was created by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders to monitor ethical behavior of elected officials and lobbyists.

Board Chairwoman Janet DiFiore said the board intends to follow "the spirit" of the state Open Meetings Law but noted a little known executive law that she said exempts the board from the meetings law and the Freedom of Information Law.

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