Man claims mother's ill health drove him to import cocaine

A man who pleaded guilty last year to importing almost 11 pounds of cocaine was sentenced to nine years and four months imprisonment. 

Ithran Brackman Powell admitted bringing the illegal drug into Owen Roberts International Airport in a suitcase with a false bottom on March 26, 2013. The hidden compartment with the contraband was found after a perceptive customs narcotics officer had the suitcase X-rayed. 

Defense attorney Paul Murphy said Powell, 28, had a noble motive – helping his mother with her medical bills – but had chosen an ignoble means. 

Magistrate Valdis Foldats disagreed. Ultimately, he said, it was a selfish and thoughtless act to focus on his family’s needs to the detriment of this country. Most people have family responsibilities, but most do not resort to crime to meet them, he pointed out. 

If the importation of this quantity of cocaine had been successful, it would have added to the misery of addicts on the island, he said. 

“Cocaine abuse continues to be a significant problem. Week in, week out, this court sees individuals who, by using this drug, have destroyed their health, lost their employment and lost their family. We see children of addicts in our family courts who must be rescued from the destructive lifestyle their parents have fallen into. Society suffers as well – addicts commit crimes to support their habit,” the magistrate said. 

In Powell’s case, the cocaine was found in one small package and three large packages, each wrapped in black plastic and covered with a yellow substance giving off a strong odor of vinegar and mustard. Sold as crack on the street, the 10.83 pounds would have been worth half a million dollars, police calculated. 

Interviewed in Spanish, Powell told officers someone was to have collected the cocaine on his arrival, but he did not know who. He said he was to have received US$6,000. 

The magistrate accepted that Powell was a courier. But couriers must know the dangers they expose themselves to – including the danger of getting caught and receiving a severe sentence, he said.  

Mr. Murphy emphasized Powell’s previous good character. He explained that his client had worked in Cayman from 2009 and had a good reference from his employer.  

“It was his mother’s ailing health and the mounting medical bills which was the cause of him undertaking this foolish enterprise,” the attorney said. “It was not a motivation born out of self-interest.” 

Senior Crown Counsel Tanya Lobban cited local and U.K. sentencing precedents, noting that the starting point in Cayman for importation of substantial quantities of drugs is 15 years. 

The magistrate adopted this starting point, observing that the effects of cocaine importation on society are corrosive and far-reaching. Sentences must be severe to denounce this type of crime and deter like-minded individuals, he said.  

From the 15 years, he deducted one year in consideration of points raised by Mr. Murphy. He then applied a one-third discount for the guilty plea, saying that even when the outcome would be inevitable, a defendant could exercise his right to trial, and that would waste the court’s time and resources.  

The total nine years and four months. 

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