Three guilty in NS ganja case

All six people charged after a land, sea and air drug operation off North Side last year have been convicted, either through their own plea or after a trial that concluded Thursday.

Magistrate Grace Donalds delivered her verdicts against Roberto Alden Jackson, 27; Sheena Annie-may Minzett, 32; and Jarrett Allen Daniels, 28, in connection with 984 pounds of ganja recovered in the vicinity of Driftwood Village.

Before trial began last year, guilty pleas were entered by Dencle Vic Barnes, 38; Alburn Gauntlett, 44; and Geaton Al Kilbourn, 31.

Gauntlett, who is from Negril, and Kilbourn, who was here on work permit, were sentenced on 24 January to two years imprisonment. Both Jamaican nationals, they had been in custody since their arrest. They were given credit for time served.

Jackson, Minzett and Daniels were remanded in custody to await sentencing, set for 13 March. Barnes remained on bail until then.

Magistrate Donalds summarised evidence about events that occurred during the night of 7-8 February and then noted her conclusions about each of the accused.

A white Jamaican-canoe type vessel with a single engine was spotted by Cayman Helicopter occupants between one-half and three-quarters of a mile off the north coast. The helicopter used white lights to illuminate the vessel, named Mount Zion. Five people and a large number of packages were seen.

On being illuminated, the five concealed their identity with clothing and began jettisoning the packages. The vessel Cayman Protector caught up with the canoe, swamped it and it overturned. The five aboard were rescued and taken ashore. They included Minzett and Jackson. (The other three rescued were the men who pleaded guilty.)

Forty separate items were later recovered along the shore in North Side. They included sacks, buckets, barrels, suitcases, bins and parcels containing what was later analysed as 984 pounds of ganja.

The following week officers visited Daniels’ workplace and told him they were investigating the recovery of the ganja. Daniels initially denied being at Morgan’s Harbour on the night the Mount Zion had departed from there.

He later admitted that he was there and the magistrate ruled his statement was voluntary and admissible. His attorney, Howard Hamilton QC argued that Daniels did not specify when he was at Morgan’s Harbour or what the extent of his involvement was.

But the magistrate pointed to a record of telephone calls between Daniels’ number and a co-accused at the time the co-accused was at sea with the ganja. Given no explanation for the calls, the court held this was evidence Daniels was guilty of being concerned in the importation of the drug.

Concerning Jackson, Customs officers’ evidence was that he was at the helm of the canoe and the court accepted he was in control of the vessel.

There was also evidence that one officer made eye contact with the captain and yelled three times for him to stop the vessel. The captain acknowledged by giving him the finger and continuing to flee.

Defence attorneys suggested that the officers might have been mistaken, but the magistrate accepted they were correct. She said she was satisfied that Jackson had control of the vessel and so had possession of what was in the vessel. His actions showed guilty knowledge.

There was evidence of drift analysis establishing that the items dumped from the boat were the items recovered from shore. Minzett identified photos of the items and admitted they were in the canoe.

Minzett also admitted that, while at Morgan’s Harbour, she knew the purpose of the boat trip was to collect drugs. Her attorney relied on the fact that she attempted to call 911 from sea but was prevented from doing so. She was not specifically identified as one of the people actively dumping things overboard and she was not involved in navigation.

However, the evidence of the Crown witnesses was that she was one of the people attempting to disguise their identity.

Minzett knew the purpose of the trip and still chose to go along to assist in the illegal enterprise. This was evidence she participated with full knowledge of the facts, the magistrate said.

Defence Attorneys Lloyd Samson and John Furniss asked for social inquiry reports before sentencing.

Attorney Morris Garcia said Daniels would be appealing his conviction. He asked for bail pending the appeal for being concerned in the importation of the ganja.

Crown Counsel Trevor Ward, who conducted the prosecution, said the appropriate course was to remand them all in custody because they were now convicted. Based on precedents, they could expect custodial sentences, he indicated.

Mr. Samson advised that the owner of the vessel Mount Zion would be applying to get it back. The court had been told the canoe was taken without permission. Mr. Ward said the Crown would review the matter.