Cocaine sentence reduced on appeal

Judge says magistrate did not consider defendant’s medical condition

A man who was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment four years ago for possessing cocaine and other drugs is likely to get out of jail soon after Justice Alexander Henderson reduced his sentence to six-and-a-half years. 

The judge on Thursday reduced the sentence of Freddy Cordero Bodden after hearing arguments from defense attorney Anthony Akiwumi related to the fact that Cordero had sustained a mild traumatic brain injury as the result of an automobile accident in 2001.  

In 2006 police officers went to a residence rented by Cordero and found 1.45 ounces of cocaine, 27 ecstasy tablets, 10 morphine tablets, a small quantity of ganja and drug-related utensils. 

After Cordero’s trial, then-Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale heard about his medical condition but said it was not a factor in his offending. She said it did not provide the impetus for his behavior and she would not take it on board. The accident might have affected his memory, she noted, but during his trial she thought he had good recall. 

The court at the time had access to a report from a psychologist who was an expert in the field of clinical neuropsychology. 

Last week, Justice Henderson said the magistrate was wrong to exclude this report when she was considering the appropriate sentence. He agreed that eight years was the correct tariff for the offense of possessing that quantity of cocaine with intent to supply. He said the magistrate was likely correct in her observation that Cordero’s medical condition was not a direct cause of his decision to involve himself in the drug trade. 

However, he continued, the medical report had obvious relevance to the task of arriving at an appropriate sentence. 

A person suffering from a degree of cognitive impairment, as described by the psychologist, can be expected to experience additional discomfort and difficulty in prison beyond what could be attributable to the mere circumstances of incarceration, the judge said.  

“Any mental disorder or disability from which a defendant suffers should be taken into account, provided the sentencing magistrate is satisfied that the evidence has a reasonable degree of reliability,” he said. 

In this case, the Crown had not challenged the doctor’s report. If there had been a challenge, the magistrate could have held a special hearing and Cordero’s attorney would have had to establish that, on the balance of probabilities, the doctor’s opinion was correct. Since the Crown did not challenge it, the magistrate ought to have taken the doctor’s opinion into account, Justice Henderson said. 

At the time of sentencing, a civil suit arising from the accident was still pending. Cordero was medically examined twice more. A 2012 report concluded that Cordero would need at least 10 years of specialist care, including psychotherapy and medication management. 

Justice Henderson said he was satisfied that Cordero’s sentence should be reduced to reflect his particular circumstances and the probability that incarceration had weighed more heavily on him than upon his fellow prisoners. 

Cordero had also appealed against conviction previously, but the judge had ruled against him on that part of the appeal. 

He did not interfere with other sentences imposed by the magistrate, who had handed down a term of nine months concurrent for possession of the morphine. She accepted that Cordero had possessed the drug to take it himself for pain, but she pointed out that he did not have a prescription for it, so it was illegally possessed. Ganja and utensil sentences were also lesser and concurrent. 

Justice Henderson reduced the cocaine sentence to six-and-a-half years and the ecstasy sentence from six years to four-and-a-half – also concurrent.  

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