Former student sentenced to jail for cocaine

Sentence is harsher than co-defendant’s

Jonathan Plymale was sentenced to 20 months in jail and five years of probation.

Jonathan Ray Plymale, a defendant in a 2009 cocaine bust that contributed to a University review of the Greek system, was sentenced to nearly two years in jail Tuesday.

Plymale, 24, was sentenced to 20 months in jail plus five years of probation, after pleading guilty to several charges, including felony conspiracy to traffic cocaine, trafficking cocaine and maintaining a dwelling for keeping a controlled substance.

That sentence was relatively lenient because he immediately cooperated with the investigation, said Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall.

“The standard punishment is 35 to 42 months,” he said. “The judge deviated from that because the judge found that Mr. Plymale assisted the police.”

According to court documents, Plymale made a full confession to police and provided information regarding the addresses and other details for four local drug dealers in Burlington and Chapel Hill. Efforts to act on that information were inhibited by the community’s awareness of Plymale’s arrest, court documents state.

Plymale was arrested Sept. 15, 2009, after a police informant bought cocaine from him at the Chancellor Square apartment of Eliza Vaughan. She was sentenced to 36 months of probation in October.

Woodall said Vaughan received a lighter sentence primarily because she was tried by a different judge, although they faced roughly the same charges.

Police found 76.8 grams of cocaine at Vaughan’s apartment at 211 Church St. They later found about 121 grams of the drug in Plymale’s apartment in a building associated with the UNC chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

The busts led to the arrests of five others.

Combined with the death of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity President Courtland Smith earlier in the year, administrators gave the Greek system more scrutiny and are considering new rules for fraternities and sororities.

But despite the attention the arrests garnered, officials say the amount seized — while certainly large — was not out of the ordinary.

“The only thing that made this unique to people was that they were students or former students and selling to other students,” Woodall said. “We’ve had other cases than this that were much bigger.”

Chapel Hill Police spokesman Kevin Gunter said the amount of drugs seized was “unprecedented” for an investigation involving mostly college students. But Gunter said he didn’t think the busts spoke for the University or Greek system as a whole.

“You can’t make assumptions abut a whole campus or a whole community based on one case,” he said. “I would caution people against making those assumptions.”

Tucker Piner, the former Interfraternity Council president, said that although he doesn’t believe drug use is or was a large problem in the Greek system, the arrests served as a wake-up call.

“We really took a hard look at the people in our chapters, who you want representing you,” he said. “I’m of the belief that we should take every event and try to turn it into a positive.”

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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