Three Americans sentenced for cocaine

Thomas Vincent Watson and his brother Anthony Wayne Watson were sentenced Friday to 15 years imprisonment for possession of 4.5 kilos of cocaine with intent to supply.

Thomas’ fiancée, Cindy Jo Hair, received 10 years.

The three Americans were sentenced after a hearing to determine how much they had benefited from drug trafficking.

Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale made a confiscation order in the sum of $20,000 against Anthony and $20,469 each against Thomas and Cindy Jo.

Defence Attorneys Ben Tonner and John Furniss gave notice of appeal against conviction and sentence.

The men had come down from the US to help rebuild a condominium complex on Seven Mile Beach after it was damaged by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.

Police found the cocaine in the brothers’ apartments in October 2005. The brothers maintained they found packages on the beach and were debating how to dispose of the drug. They pleaded guilty to simple possession.

Cindy Jo, who had come to visit Thomas for about a month, pleaded not guilty.

After trial, Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale found them guilty of possession with intent (Caymanian Compass, 25 September 2006).

Evidence included photographs of the three posing with the packages of cocaine. Thomas had told the court he posed the photos as skits showing drugs and money to amuse himself because he had island fever and lacked female companionship.

The magistrate pointed out that the photos were taken while Thomas’ female companion was here. Cindy Jo was found to have taken photos of Thomas and Anthony with the cocaine.

In one photo, US currency notes spread out on a table and in a roll were calculated to total CI$6,216.60.

Other evidence in the trial came from notes kept by Thomas of names and amounts. He said the notes referred to workers and amounts of money owed or borrowed. The court found that the notes referred to cocaine.

Sentencing was adjourned on several occasions, in part because a medical report for Anthony had been requested and in part because Crown Counsel Kirsty-Ann Gunn gave notice that she was applying for the confiscation order.

Mr. Tonner spoke on behalf of Thomas, 40 and Anthony, 52. He said there was some evidence to suggest that drugs had washed ashore at different areas of Grand Cayman around the time of the Watsons’ arrests.

He asked the court to resolve any doubts in their favour – that the drugs had not been imported or purchased, but that the situation was almost opportunistic.

Mr. Tonner described the brothers as skilled workmen who came to lend a hand when Cayman was in a difficult situation. The men had worked hard not only at their job site but in assisting elderly people in the community who needed work done.

Since their remand in custody, they had done an estimated $100,000 worth of work at the prison, the lawyer related.

Mr. Furniss spoke on Cindy Jo’s behalf. He said she had already suffered a pretty extreme penalty for her action of coming to visit Thomas and for what she obviously recognised as her foolish action in smiling sweetly for the camera as she held up the cocaine.

While on bail, she had been unable to leave the island and so had missed her child’s graduation and two birthdays.

The house in which she and the child resided would have to be sold as a result of the confiscation order and the finding that Thomas had an interest in the house.

Mr. Furniss said there was no evidence to suggest that Cindy Jo knew the money Thomas sent her was from drugs. She knew he had a good job here that paid well.

In passing sentence, the magistrate commented on Mr. Tonner’s submission that the offence was opportunistic.

‘I suppose that may be a mitigating factor. But at the end of the day, the destruction and degradation of human life is the same whether the decision was made in an instant or from a pre-laid plan. The fact that you found the drug and determined to deal in it doesn’t make it any less harmful,’ she said.

The magistrate listed all that Mr. Tonner had said about the brothers’ good character and work ethic, but said that in drug cases these were not the court’s concern. The concern is to pass a sentence that will deter others from dealing in drugs, she said.

The magistrate conceded there was a basis for treating Cindy Jo differently because there was no evidence she knew the source of Thomas’ funds before she came here. But the court found that Cindy Jo did encourage, aid and abet him. She did not express displeasure or dissent, but happily benefited.

The defendant’s child could not be taken into consideration by the court because the defendant herself had not taken the child into account. If she had, she would have found herself somewhere else rather than aiding and abetting kilo quantities, the magistrate said.

Thomas and Cindy Jo were also convicted of dealing in a small quantity of ganja. Their sentence for this offence was nine months concurrent.

Sentences for drug consumption for all three were also made concurrent.

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