Ganja smugglers take plea deal over gun

| 17/09/2019 | 3 Comments
Jamaican drug canoe, Cayman News Service
Jamaican canoe interdicted by the RCIPS on 2 March 2018

(CNS): Three Jamaican men pleaded guilty on Tuesday to possessing an unlicensed gun and smuggling class A drugs, after the court agreed there were exceptional circumstances in the case and they would not have to serve the mandatory minimum sentence for the unlicensed firearm. Fitzroy Ottey (42), Owen Reid (38) and Assad Walker (59) had admitted smuggling over 300lbs of ganja but have always denied knowing about the gun that police found hidden inside the ganja packages.

The men were caught after a police chase at sea on 2 March 2018, but all three claimed that they had not packed the ganja or loaded the boat and had no idea about the .38 Smith & Wesson revolver and 49 rounds of ammunition stashed inside.

The men said they were also unaware of the 100 grams of cocaine or the near 50 grams of MDMA (Ecstasy) found wrapped inside the ganja.

But prosecutors were not willing to accept that the men had no knowledge of the gun or the narcotics and had pushed for a trial. The case opened in March but it became apparent very quickly that the crown was not prepared for that trial. After five days of adjournments, delays, arguments and other challenges, the judge halted the case.

But then, in a very unusual move, she awarded costs against the crown to be paid to Legal Aid, which had funded the men’s defence. The judge made it clear she believed the crown had wasted the court’s time by attempting to press the case when it was not ready to do so.

Following plans to retry the men again this week, the defence applied for a hearing before Justice Frank Williams for him to consider the possible sentence for the smugglers if the court found that there were exceptional circumstances. Anyone convicted of possessing an unlicensed gun after trial faces a mandatory minimum of ten years behind bars or seven years for an admission unless there are such circumstances that would allow the judge to depart from that basic tariff.

Given all of the circumstances, Justice Williams accepted there was no way to show the men knew about the hidden gun or the class A drugs and accepted they believed they were smuggling only ganja. He indicated that if the men accepted the charges he would be inclined, dependent on the full aggravating and mitigating circumstances, to pass sentences of around three and a half years for Ottey and Reid, who have no relevant previous convictions, and around five years for Walker, who has been involved in ganja smuggling in the past.

Given that indication, the men accepted the various counts against them and pleaded guilty to all of the charges. All three men, who have been on remand since their arrest eighteen months ago, were remanded again until the sentencing hearing, which will now take place on Thursday.

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Comments (3)

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  1. BeaumontZodecloun says:

    Justice?

    If the government funds farmers to grow it, package it, tax it and sell it pursuant to similar/same conditions as alcohol……….. you remove the criminal element, AND fund the government.

    Users will likely remain the same per capita. What is the downside?

    I think Justice Williams did as right as he could within the tools afforded him.

    • Anonymous says:

      3,000 lbs seized over 6 months. Let’s call it 5000 lbs a year. Wholesale in jam is $50 a pound. Landed here $1000-1200..

      5000 * $50 = $250,000 lost from seizing. Let’s assume a 1:1 bust and land ratio

      5000 * $1000 = $5,000,000 KYD, or net profit of $4,500,000 a year for the drug lords if one boat gets by for every boat busted.

      NOW, WHAT IF IT WAS TAXED?

      Like you said assume same user per capita. $4,500,000 KYD in sales taxed at 22% is just shy of $1,000,000 a year.

      With that tax revenue, you could pay the salaries of 55 unemployed Caymanians $10/hr year round to grow it on farms and / or sell in regulated dispensaries.

      Bonus part? This isn’t considering the amount of additional revenue by selling to tourists who want to enjoy a pre-rolled joint at sunset instead of alcohol. This isn’t considering the amount of money spent on ganja enforcement and court costs.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wuzn me

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