Two admit ganja, not guilty of cocaine

Two young Caymanians caught with two other men and a boatload of ganja told a Grand Court jury last week that some of the ganja was theirs. But Arick Ren Williams and Shane William Junior McLean denied any knowledge of or involvement with packets of cocaine later found inside two ganja parcels.

On Friday the jury found them both not guilty of importing 1.63 pounds of cocaine.

Justice Leighton Pusey said they were free to go on that charge. However, they still face a charge of importing ganja, which will be dealt with in Summary Court. ‘I am sure that, based on the evidence you gave here, you will be taking a certain course,’ he told them, using the phrase that typically precedes a guilty plea.

Also returning to Summary Court is Jamaican national Cornel Alfonso Powell, 51, who was aboard the vessel intercepted off East End on Saturday night, 3 January. Mr. Powell, represented by Attorney Nicholas Dixey, maintained he knew nothing about any drugs.

A fisherman with no previous convictions, he said he thought the boat was going to the cays to buy fish. He said he had been drinking heavily on the Friday night before being asked to make the trip, so he didn’t smell anything when he boarded the 33-foot canoe AVA.

The jury found him not guilty of importing the cocaine. He remains in custody pending a hearing of the ganja charge.

The fourth man aboard the vessel was Jamaican national Ian Linwall Johnson, 56, who served as captain.

All four first appeared in Summary Court on 9 January, charged with importation of an estimated 385 pounds of ganja brought from Jamaica in 21 separate buckets, suitcases and other containers. At that stage, the vegetable matter was still being processed.

On 3 February, the men were brought back to court on the cocaine charge. Laboratory analysts had found two parcels of the hard drug inside two of the containers of ganja. The case then went to Grand Court.

Before trial began, attorneys asked for Justice Pusey’s preliminary view on the question of possession. The judge said once a person knows he is involved with an illegal drug, it is not a defence to say he did not know which drug it was.

Defence Attorney John Furniss said Johnson knew he was transporting a shipment of ganja. He therefore had to accept responsibility for the cocaine, even though he did not know about it. Johnson pleaded guilty and trial then began for the other three defendants.

The situation for McLean and Williams was different. Each gave evidence and identified the parcel or parcels he said he was responsible for. Each said he did not know who the other parcels belonged to.

Senior Crown Counsel Trevor Ward argued that both young men were part of a common plan to import the drugs and were therefore responsible for all the drugs on board.

McLean, represented by Attorney Edward Renvoize, told the court he went to Jamaica to chill out after selling his car for US$7,000. Asked why he was in the boat, McLean said he had 10 pounds of ganja from a friend he met in Jamaica named Toto. He did it because of the influence of friends and he was ‘trying to make a fast buck’.

Toto said he would make all the arrangements and when it was time to leave he would come pick McLean up. McLean said he paid Toto $1,000 for those arrangements, which included fuel and supplies. He knew which ganja was his because when they got to the boat Toto pointed to a Superman backpack.

He said he went to Jamaica in early November and did not see Williams until about two weeks before they sailed back to Cayman. Asked by Mr. Ward if it was pure coincidence that he and Williams were both coming back to Cayman with drugs, he said yes.

Asked why he never identified his separate 10 pound package to the police, he said it wouldn’t make sense. The package had started to tear and he didn’t want it to soak up salt, so he asked if he could put it in a bag with Williams’ ganja.

Williams, in contrast, told the court he went to Jamaica to get some ganja. Mr. X, whom he declined to name, had asked him to carry out this mission and promised him some 10 or 15 pounds of weed. Williams bought another 15 pounds on his own.

His Jamaican contact was a man named Roy. Roy picked him up and took him to the boat and told him which bags were his (Williams’).

Shown photographs of the 21 containers of ganja, Williams picked out those he said were his. He also picked out containers belonging to Mr. X. Williams said X had called him before he left Jamaica and described all his parcels.

He pointed out five parcels he was in custody and control of for X and two parcels he was carrying for himself. None of those parcels contained cocaine.

The arrangements for the boat had been made by X, Williams said. The boat was to land in East End. They were supposed to see a fire on the beach.

Williams’ attorney, Mr. Ben Tonner, told the jury in his closing speech that the parcels containing the cocaine had nothing to do with his client. ‘Perhaps the drugs were earmarked for somebody we haven’t heard of,’ he suggested.

Mr. Renvoize, speaking for McLean, said there was not a shred of evidence that McLean and Williams had any common plan. He had no idea how many boats come to Cayman stacked with drugs. But two people might well end up on the same boat. ‘These aren’t taxis… you can’t hail one,’ he commented.

Justice Pusey in his instructions to jurors said they had to consider the case against each defendant separately.

McLean had said he was responsible for his 10 pounds of ganja only and was not in agreement to carry anything else. If jurors believed him they had to find him not guilty because there was no indication of any cocaine in his 10 pounds. If jurors had a doubt, they had to find him not guilty.

Only if they disbelieved McLean and were sure he was part of the enterprise of bringing all of the ganja to Cayman, or by his presence was encouraging the others, could they find him guilty.

The judge said Williams’ case was slightly different because he had admitted his ‘mission’. But jurors still had to be sure he had custody of all the items. If they believed he was responsible for only certain items, or if they had a doubt, they had to find him not guilty.