Summons issued for $10,000 surety

In Summary Court last Wednesday, Magistrate Grace Donalds issued a summons for the person who signed as surety for a defendant who has apparently absconded.

The magistrate said she would summons the surety to show cause why part or all of the $10,000 cash bond posted should not be forfeited.

At the same time she ordered a warrant be executed for the arrest of the defendant, Clarissa Zelaya De Acosta.

De Acosta had been scheduled to attend court on Tuesday, 2 May, after the Court of Appeal ruled that she should have a retrial on the charge of importing almost 12 pounds of cocaine in May 2002.

That court made its ruling on Friday, 21 April, and De Acosta was present. Attorney Nicholas Dixey spoke on her behalf.

In Summary Court on 2 May, Mr. Dixey initially asked for De Acosta’s matter to be put off for a week because she had attended all of her court dates since being granted bail in January 2006.

The magistrate agreed to one day, so that Mr. Dixey could try to contact his client.

On 3 May, Mr. Dixey updated the court about his inquiries. He said he had left messages on De Acosta’s phone, but received no reply.

Then he contacted De Acosta’s relative who is the owner of the premises to which she was bailed.

The attorney noted that what he was reporting was hearsay, but he felt he should share what he had been told – that De Acosta failed to return home on Friday, 28 April. After the hour of her curfew had passed, the relative called police and reported her absence.

‘The suspicion must be that she has absconded,’ Mr. Dixey said. But police could apprehend her if they found her.

De Acosta, a Honduran national, was found guilty in December 2002 of importing 5,329 grams (5.3 kilos) of cocaine from Honduras. Her baggage had included a cooler of fish. The fish and the defendant were taken to a supermarket where the fish were cut open and the cocaine was found.

The defendant, who was 22 at the time, had told the court through an interpreter that she was coming to Cayman to look for work. A woman at the airport in Honduras had asked her to carry the cooler to Cayman and she eventually agreed. De Acosta maintained she did not know about the cocaine.

After trial in Summary Court she was found guilty and sentenced to 14 years (Caymanian Compass, 7 January 2003).

Mr. Dixey, who was not the original defence attorney, argued the appeal in Grand Court, which ordered a retrial last November. The matter then went to the Court of Appeal.

Meanwhile De Acosta had served three years eight months of her sentence, before being granted bail in January 2006.

Mr. Dixey had advised the Court of Appeal that, based on time off for good behaviour and parole requirements, the total amount she might have had to serve was 56 months. He asked whether the public interest would be served by keeping her here for a retrial.

Another consideration, he said, was that De Acosta was pregnant when she came to Cayman, but did not know it. She gave birth while in custody and the child was soon after deported to Honduras, to the care of a grandmother.

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