Ganja/cocaine boat case back in court

Ian Linwall Johnson, the boat captain who was sentenced to eight years imprisonment in Grand Court for importation of cocaine, received a four- year sentence in Summary Court last week for importing ganja.

Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale said the sentence would be concurrent – that is, run at the same time as the eight-year sentence.

Three other persons on the boat with him will be returning to Summary Court on 23 June.

Cornel Alfonso Powell, Shane William McLean Jr. and Arick Ren Williams still face the charge of importing ganja after the Grand Court jury found them not guilty of importing cocaine.

Attorney John Furniss repeated to the magistrate the basis of Johnson’s plea: as captain he had to accept responsibility for the cargo aboard the vessel AVA when Cayman authorities intercepted it off East End the night of 3 January. Johnson said he knew he was carrying ganja, but did not know there were two packages of cocaine inside two of the ganja parcels.

The cocaine weighed 1.63 pounds and Justice Leighton Pusey sentenced Johnson to eight years imprisonment after hearing about local guidelines and precedents (Caymanian Compass, 4 June).

While the magistrate and Mr. Furniss discussed details of the charges against Johnson, Crown Counsel Nicola Moore interjected: ‘We need to amend the law so we can have summary offences linked to Grand Court offences [so that everything related] can be dealt with in the Grand Court.’

In this particular case, she noted Johnson was also charged with illegal landing and said no evidence would be offered, effectively concluding Johnson’s matters.

When McLean and Williams returned to Summary Court with Johnson, Attorney Edward Renvoize said that in the Grand Court they had run a defence of possession of a certain amount of the ganja – not the whole amount (and not the packages containing the cocaine). They were prepared to enter a guilty plea in Summary Court on the same basis. The Crown was asked to consider that basis of plea.

Attorney Nicholas Dixey spoke for the fourth man on the boat, Powell. He had told the Grand Court he was drinking heavily before being asked to make the boat trip from Jamaica; he thought they were going to the cays to get fish. He denied knowing anything about any drugs until the boat was well out to sea.

Mr. Dixey said not accepting the jury’s verdict in effect put Powell in double jeopardy.

Powell also faces the charge of illegal landing. McLean and Williams, who are Caymanian, do not have any immigration charges listed.

The last matter dealt with concerned the vessel used to transport the drugs. The magistrate asked if the boat belonged to Johnson. Told no, she ordered it to be confiscated.

The boat was described in Grand Court as a Jamaican canoe, 33 feet long and eight feet at its widest point. Photos showed it with two outboard engines attached – Yamaha Enduro 60s.