Mililani teacher admits to having pot pipe
If he avoids trouble for six months, his record will be wiped clean
A Mililani Middle School teacher has admitted to possessing a pipe last December that contained trace amounts of marijuana residue.
But Benjamin Ayson, 32, said it belonged to his cousin who had left it behind in Ayson's truck after attending a University of Hawaii football game.
Ayson, who has been on leave from the school since the Dec. 4 incident, pleaded no contest yesterday in Wahiawa District Court to third-degree promotion of a detrimental drug, a petty misdemeanor.
He and fellow Mililani Middle teacher Lisa Luhrsen were arrested and charged with possession after a parent observed the two smoking what appeared to be marijuana at the Mililani Park & Ride before heading to school.
District Judge Phillip Doi granted Ayson's request to defer his plea for the next six months, on condition that he remain conviction-free and pay fines and court costs totaling nearly $400. If Ayson complies, his criminal record will be wiped clean.
Ayson's attorney, David Gierlach, said Ayson, a language arts and physical education teacher, was eligible for the deferral, and continued to maintain in court that his client was merely smoking a cigarette.
"Mr. Ayson is not charged with smoking marijuana," said Gierlach, emphasizing that a drug test that Ayson took the following day was negative for any drugs.
The criminal charge involves only 0.32 ounces of marijuana that was found in the pipe, he noted.
Deputy Prosecutor Cheryl Yamaki opposed the deferral, saying that although Ayson was not charged with smoking marijuana, the fact that he had it in his possession goes against what his students are taught: to "say no to drugs."
Had the case gone to trial, the defense would have brought in Ayson's cousin who would testify and did give a statement to school officials that he was the owner of the pipe and had left it in Ayson's truck after borrowing it, Gierlach said.
Judge Doi said he agreed that Ayson was eligible for the deferral, noting the negative drug test. Doi also found that Ayson was not likely to engage in criminal behavior in the future.
Ayson left the courthouse surrounded by fellow teachers and supporters and would not comment.
Mililani Middle School officials could not be reached for comment.
Luhrsen pleaded no contest last month to possessing marijuana, a petty misdemeanor, and was granted a deferral of her plea for six months.
Both Ayson and Luhrsen have filed grievances with the teachers union.