Man jailed for ganja, girlfriend freed after Crown drops charges

A woman in custody for 11 days was released late Thursday after the Crown withdrew charges against her of possessing more than 200 pounds of ganja and intent to supply.

Leonela Cogollo Pedroza, 29, had been charged along with her boyfriend, Eduardo Swaby Gutierrez, after police found the ganja at their West Bay home on Sept. 5.

Swaby, 32, pleaded guilty on Sept. 14. Through his attorney, John Furniss, Swaby said he was solely responsible for the ganja and Pedroza knew nothing about it.

When the pair first appeared in court on Sept. 7, Pedroza told the court through attorney Martha Rankine that she had no knowledge of the drugs.

Ms. Rankine had unsuccessfully applied for bail, telling Magistrate Grace Donalds that Pedroza was afraid she would lose her job at a Seven Mile Beach bar.

On Friday, after her client’s release, Ms. Rankine told reporters the employer was happy to have Pedroza back at work.

Swaby was sentenced on Thursday to two years’ imprisonment for possession of ganja with intent to supply. The amount, initially estimated at more than 200 pounds, was certified to be 269.9 pounds. It had been contained in five large suitcases and two rice sacks.

The court previously heard that officers of the Drugs and Serious Crime Task Force had found the drugs in the locked laundry area of the residence.

The officers also found a glass jar of ganja in the kitchen, along with digital scales and 20 cases of quart-size glass jars, 12 to a case.

Police searched another address connected to Swaby and found more than $7,000 in cash – CI$4,000 and the rest in U.S. currency. The money is the subject of a charge of possession of criminal property.

Attorney Mr. Furniss suggested that Swaby’s plea had to be one of the earliest the court would have received in a case involving this much ganja.

Crown counsel Greg Walcolm noted that Swaby had a previous conviction for simple possession of cocaine. He accepted that the early guilty plea was a mitigating factor.

Magistrate Donalds said a sentence of three years seemed appropriate in the case before her, particularly because Swaby had said he was solely responsible and the co-accused had no knowledge of the drug. Swaby agreed he would be entitled to one-third discount for his guilty plea, which reduced his sentence to two years.

Dec. 13 has been set as the date when the court will deal with the charge of possessing criminal property.

After Swaby left the dock, Pedroza was brought up from the cells. Mr. Walcolm then said the Crown was withdrawing the charges against her.

The magistrate told Pedroza that she was accordingly discharged: “You are free to go.