Drug Charges Filed Against Former College President

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Formal drug charges have been filed against the former president of Sierra Nevada College.

James Lee Ash Jr. was president of the private, four-year college in Incline Village when he was arrested July 9 at a Sparks motel.

He was charged Tuesday with drug possession and maintaining a place for drug activity, prosecutors said.

Ash, 58, was arrested at the Western Village Inn & Casino after police found what appeared to be methamphetamine and marijuana in a room registered to Ash and 18-year-old Travis Lewis, who was also charged.

Ash's lawyer Scott Freeman has said his client, who is an ordained Presbyterian minister, had been mentoring Lewis and rented the room for Lewis to help him find a job.

"We ask everybody to withhold their judgment until all the facts come out," Freeman told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

In a statement to police, Ash denied knowing drugs were in the room.

If convicted, Ash could face up to four years in prison for drug possession and up to six years on the second charge, said Washoe County Deputy District Attorney Karl Hall.

Ash left his job as college president shortly after his arrest. Kelly Watson, a lawyer representing the college, said Ash resigned, but Freeman said he was fired.

According to the police report, officers found a bag containing a crystal material, a bag containing a green leafy material, glass pipes, propane and butane torches, alcohol swabs, and a "vast quantity" of hypodermic needles in a dresser drawer in the hotel room.

No drugs were found among what Ash said were his belongings inside the room, the report said.

A crystal material and smoking pipes also were found in a Dodge Durango where officers first located Lewis and another man, police said.