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Thomas Cunningham hit with 18 felony counts, possible years in jail, over "pot brownie assault"

thomas cunningham court.jpg
Pics, video below.
Update: On Monday, we reported about the arrests of CU students Thomas Cunningham and Mary Essa for "pot brownie assault" -- secretly feeding a professor and classmates dosed sweets, prompting three hospitalizations; see previous coverage below. Cunningham was originally busted on suspicion of four felonies, but yesterday, he was charged with eighteen carrying the potential of years in jail -- and the same boom will be lowered on Essa today.

According to the Boulder Daily Camera, Cunningham has been named in eight counts apiece of second-degree assault and inducing the consumption of a controlled substance; the figure corresponds to the number of people who consumed the brownies, with three, including associate professor Celine Dauverd, requiring hospitalization. The accusations are topped off by two additional conspiracy counts, since Cunningham and Essa are said to have collaborated on the stunt.

brownies.jpg
The potential punishment for conviction on all these allegations? The sentencing guidelines for second-degree assault range from two to six years in prison, while the inducing consumption counts could net one to three years in stir.

Even if Cunningham and Essa, who's expected to face identical charges today, were convicted in every instance, the odds of their sentences maxing out, or running consecutively rather than concurrently, are mighty slim. But the size of the book being thrown remains startling, especially considering that Cunningham and Essa are essentially being prosecuted for a stupid joke gone wrong -- one that resulted in no serious or permanent damage to anyone.

Fortunately for all concerned, the district attorney handling the matter is Stan Garnett, who's consistently shown a willingness to be reasonable in quirky cases like this one, including ones that have gotten enormous publicity.

Continue for more about the "pot brownie assault," including a video and booking photos.



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159 comments
Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

I want to explain WHY someone unknowing & a non-smoker sought medical attention after eating the brownies . It's called EXTREME paranoia, fueled by multiple participants .

I smoked for better than 20 yrs and FOREVER thought people who claimed,  " It makes me paranoid",  were just saying so as an excuse for not wanting to partake . The first time I ever 'dined', I did so served by a 'baker' that was if 'Spicoli' fucked Martha Stewart's, son . The result was nearly as intense as a hit of acid or a handful of 'booms' . OF COURSE I didn't call '911' but I had a new understanding of something I had dead wrong since I began smoking when I was fifteen . I can only imagine those kids feeding terror off of one another w/o someone there MAKING them ' catch their snap' ! I personally could have prevented someone panicked, from calling for help and that is EXACTLY what went down !

These otherwise innocent good kids will most certainly be receiving more than a hand slap for this horribly thoughtless isolated choice . Had this occurred in Arapahoe county, Chambers would have filed multiple attempted murder charges on her way out the door . Imagine the FORCED plea those two now ex-students would be forced to take . Any potential they may have possessed could very well be destroyed forever . 

Very sad NEGATIVE story involving marijuana ....

Corey Donahue
Corey Donahue

Jay it´s your body, right? So where is this anger at the government that allows Con-Agra to posion your meet with amona? Why don´t you focus your ass beating anger aginst the people who are actully killing you?

Jay Jurgens
Jay Jurgens

I just read some of the comments and I have to say I only saw one intelligent answer. You people are college educated? No wonder this world is all screwed up. What a bunch of fucking idiots except Alphonso. The rest of you people are fucking morons. If some idiot did to me what they did I'd beat your asses within an inch of you pathetic rich mommie and daddies asses. It's MY body not a fucking jokesters playground

Jay Jurgens
Jay Jurgens

I say throw the book at them. You don't do that kind of crap to people. Many mommy and daddy need to babysit these two dipsticks so the college can teach kids that really want to learn. Shine never smoking pot before and without knowing what is happening. You w souls crap yourself. I still remember the first time I got high but if I would have ate something unaware of why I was feeling like that WOW. What a couple of morons.

Juan Macias
Juan Macias

I laughed when I first saw this. Than I realized it was real. Oh and I am also eating brownies as we speak. lol

Tarik Ocon
Tarik Ocon

Peanuts are more dangerous in our society.

Samuel Walter
Samuel Walter

Without negating the seriousness of the incident, I think 18 felony charges is absurdly inappropriate. There's no reason to obliterate a young man's life just to make a point and set an example. He clearly showed poor judgement and potentially risked the health of others, but this is overkill.

XoMatthieuxo Rossett
XoMatthieuxo Rossett

Sucks you got so long but that is funny. They were probably like I feel weird.

Jeff Williams
Jeff Williams

i think they should have to do 200 hours of community service at a food bank serving lunches

Alfonzo McCarthy
Alfonzo McCarthy

When I first saw this on the news my reaction was "what a couple of dumb asses"! I am all for Amendment 64 and believe that Cannabis should be used responsibly. But when you got idiots like these two playing jokes on people feeding them pot brownies, that is so not cool and possibly jeopardizing someones health. Idk,whatever the outcome they will have time to sit and think about it. Amendment 64 is something that people have fought hard to get on the ballot and pass, let's start being responsible and not f--k this up. AM

Ernest Berke Foundation
Ernest Berke Foundation

I was stalked and attacked by strangers 07-25-12 mid day IN THE MIDDLE OF 10th Av BEAT IN THE HEAD! ONLY 1 of 3 charged due to POLICE PREJUDICE AND NEGLIGENCE! Is this coming from out of my unacquainted, Uncle in law Pelle's office? Who ignored my PLEAS for help with domestic violence from his NEPHEW, my continued abusive husband. I GUESS I DESERVE IT..as he and his family say! THANKS FOR THE HELP SHERIFF UNCLE PELLE!

Sean Bracken
Sean Bracken

And he deserves it. He got students high who were not asking to be high. Even though pot is legal, this shouldn't be legal.

Bradley Langston
Bradley Langston

It was more than a "joke". Those people were UNWILLINGLY ingesting something that could have caused harm.

BillG883
BillG883

I am 100%  for legalizing marijuana, but if I was prosecuting his case I would put these two in jail. What they did was wrong.  They scared several people enough that they went to the hospital.  For all these people know they had ingested bad poison and were going to die.  This was not cool at all, and these two deserve a spanking and other young people need to see that this type of thing will not be tolerated. 

That said, I'd hate to see them end up with life ruining felony convictions for a very stupid but relatively harmless prank, so if it were up to me I'd amend the charges down to misemeanor charges in exchange for them agreeing to spend at least 30 days in jail, if not more.  This is a serious thing they did that cannot be tolerated and making them spend this time in jail would discourage them from ever doing this type of thing again and would send enough of a message to other young people who think it would be funny to dose their classmates and teachers with pot brownies.  What did these idiots think? That everybody would just laugh and have a great time? 

americanroger
americanroger

I hope these clowns do at least 4 years in state prison. If you've ever had an edible induced panic attack before then you know what I'm talking about. This is also a good reason not to legalize.

robertweller
robertweller

ah the conspiracy. as clarence darrow explained. two kids steal a piece of candy from a store is a misdemeanor. if they get together and plan to steal the candy, but don't do it, it is conspiracy, and a felony. hang em high.

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

The latest news is school suspension, which is a whole lot more reasonable than putting him in a cage...though he still needs to make his victims whole.

David Barton
David Barton

^^^^Jonathan, that's your retort to my comment?. Reefer Madness was about the ridiculous hysteria surrounding the perceived societal and psychological effects of Marihuana. By extension, I'm referring to the over-the-top sentiment of the comments on this thread about the dangers of the actions and ensuing reaction. Again, I think the two should be punished. But to suggest jail time is required because they *could* have chosen a more dangerous substance to lace the brownies with is asinine. They didn't. The reason people went to the hospital is because they didn't know what was going on, not because they were close to death. Kick the kids out school, put them on probation, reparations to the hospital visits, whatever. But jail time? Do you really think that they were trying to injure people? Stop pretending to be pro-legalization/anti-prohibition to bolster your argument. Let's use some common sense in understanding the severity of the crime. Drugging someone against their will is obviously wrong, but there's a difference between a stupid prank to get the class buzzed on pot brownies and attempting to kill your neighbor with strychnine or trying to knock out a woman at the bar to take advantage of her. Regardless of the punishment that they end up facing, the people that ate the brownies are fine, the two perps will NEVER do that again, and others will think twice before attempting such a thing. Isn't that ultimately what we want?

rockiesfever
rockiesfever

which drug it is is not the point.....the fact that it is a drugging is the point. just cause pot is becoming more socially acceptable doesnt mean you can feed it to an unsuspecting person who didnt ask for it. What if one of the victims were allergic to thc? what if one of them was in recovery from drug addiction?....if they go to prison it will be deserved

Jónatas Roze
Jónatas Roze

I don't think Reefer Madness was about people getting sick from eating pot brownies, dude.

David Barton
David Barton

Love you holier than thou types. You don't think they've learned lessons from this? Something about this story doesn't add up. I want to know more about the brownies-they were that potent, yet no one detected anything awry? I mean, one bite=hospitalization? Anyway, the mob mentality is insane here. Should they be in trouble? Yes. But should their lives be ruined for it? Absolutely not. Reefer madness, all over again. Sadly, if they simply would have walked into the classroom and punched everyone's teeth out, they'd be facing LESS charges. Let's hope that the judge employs some common sense and reserves jail space for the real criminals......

Jason Beck
Jason Beck

So they just slap him on the wrist and let him go, it just shows the next idiot that they can get away with it. The kid screwed up royally and he needs to take responsibility, he at least should do thirty days.

B-rad K. Evans
B-rad K. Evans

First time I have ever seen some charged for a Mickey...

Jónatas Roze
Jónatas Roze

Well said, Christopher Hall. Comparing this situation to one in which benzos, LSD or 2C-I were used was my next argument.

Liv Michaelson
Liv Michaelson

That seems extreme overkill, but I'm not surprised. That's the way our police & criminal systems make the $$$

Christopher Hall
Christopher Hall

I love how the Westword keeps trying to shape the debate, framing it as a practical joke gone wrong. People were DRUGGED without their consent. The more you minimize it, the more you essentially condone this kind of behavior. He may have thought it was a practical joke, but the people he was pranking may have been terrified and obviously were sickened. Let's say it was MDMA or Rohypnol, or even alcohol? Still okay? Good grief, if that'd happened to me, *I'd* be the one facing assault charges. How dare they do that to others. Of course, the charges will get pled down, but you bet your ass they deserve jail time.

Dan Brown
Dan Brown

I hope he is able to plead down to less jail time, but he intentionally drugged people and is deserving of what ever he gets.

Kelly Pearson
Kelly Pearson

As someone who is allergic to pot, this stunt could've killed me. So yes. He deserves it.

Jónatas Roze
Jónatas Roze

No one was hurt? People went to the hospital!

BillG883
BillG883

@americanroger Four years?  That's pretty extreme for a relatively harmless prank. Nobody was really hurt and pot brownies aren't going to kill anybody or injure them.  What they did was most definitely wrong though, not cool at all. If I were prosecuting them I'd agree to amend the charges down to misdemeanors if they agreed to do something like 30 days in jail.  That's a long time for a kid whose never been in jail.  That would be enough to teach them a lesson and discourage other kids from doing the same, but it wouldn't be a sentence that ruins these kids' lives, and it wouldn't leave them with a felony conviction.  Really, this isn't that much worse than spiking the punch bowl with Vodka at a school party, which wouldn't be cool either.

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

@rockiesfever You're right that they shouldn't be allowed to do such a thing. They should be held responsible, which doesn't necessarily mean they should be prevented from working to compensate their victims, which putting them in a cage would do.

ryan.nino303
ryan.nino303

@David Barton No their life shouldn't be ruined. But if the sircumstances that come out of the punishment ruin their lives, that was something they should have thought about. I do not smoke weed anymore so I would have been angry if I was one of the people to be drugged. If they walked into the room and punched everyones teeth out 1) people would have a chance to defend themselves 2) nobody is going to have their driving effected and potentialy get into a fatal car accident because they got punched in the mouth.

If your mom or wife got into the car and drove and had a panick attack or passed out while they were driving your kids and they died...would you think different. The point isn't what happened but what could have happened.

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

@ryan.nino303 So your justification is "they should know they live under fascism."

That's just great. They should make their victims whole, not cost us a fortune in prison money.

betweenthelines
betweenthelines

@DonkeyHotay This is the same argument that has been used to persecute drug offenders for draconian amounts of mandatory time. We all know it is a CRIME. The punishment should fit....Who cares about your politics.....

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

@ryan.nino303 You obviously don't, as evidenced by your idea that it has something to do with religion.

Molyneux is a contemporary philosopher who blogs. Previous philosophers didn't have blogging tools.

They work their ass off to do what it takes to pay their debt, as determined by common law precedent. A reasonable court might also expect them to work with people who have been adversely affected by drugs. They might be expected to pay for counseling the people they harmed to deal with any issues that came from being drugged. The point is, they own the damage they caused, and they can be held responsible to make good. They should have to pay to victims' funds, for example. 

The point is, the cage is not a useful tool for reforming such an offender. Serial killers and serial rapists? Sure.

ryan.nino303
ryan.nino303

@Cognitive_Dissident @ryan.nino303 I know exactly what morality is. And we can argue mrality another day. I have read Molyneux, listened rather. I wouldnt call him a "philosopher" more than I would call him a blogger.

How do you propose they "work their ass off" so compensate the victims? Payin gtheir bills. Yes, moneterily is good but what about psychologically? How do you pay that back?

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

@ryan.nino303 You have no idea of what morality is. Read a philosopher or two, perhaps Rand or a contemporary such as Stefan Molyneux.

As for the court, that's what it used to do. Today it follows prescribed sentences by men in suits who are sheltered from reality. 

You need to do some reading about how things really work, not how the government says they work.

The perpetrators sitting there and thinking doesn't make it better. The perpetrators working their asses off to compensate the victims makes it better. Stories about what happened makes it better. The cage doesn't. The idea that not putting them in a cage is equal to not punishing them makes no sense.

ryan.nino303
ryan.nino303

@Cognitive_Dissident @ryan.nino303 I dont think so. I believe you have a warped view on morality. Morality is set forth by society and religion. That sucks, but that is how it is.

I agree with you on what you would do. That is what the court does. Exactly. I have been to jail. I fucking hate it. It sucks. Its not for me. The reason I believe they should go to jail is because they should sit there and think about what they did. In jail, that is all you have to do is think. OR, some kind of program that would effectively adress the issue. But firm punishment is a must.

Cognitive_Dissident
Cognitive_Dissident topcommenter

@ryan.nino303 So because the theft is "almost nothing" makes it right?

I would interview the victims, find out what their bills were for medical treatment, find out how it's impacted their lives, and recommend a fair settlement based on similar events and settlements, to make them whole. Remember that putting them in a cage does nothing at all to make them whole. My response is morally and practically superior.

ryan.nino303
ryan.nino303

@Cognitive_Dissident @ryan.nino303 Dude, I agree with you that WE the PEOPLE have too much of our tax money is spent on victumless crimes. But YOU and ME as single people do not pay a lot of money to house criminals. It is almost nothing.

I want to know how YOU, personally would hold these people accountable given all the known circumstances.

And these two going to jail will not make a difference to your tax. You are going to pay the same regardless if these two go to jail.

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