Three acquitted of gun charge, sentenced for ganja

Justice Charles Quin found three men not guilty of possessing an unlicensed firearm and then sentenced them for the ganja in which the firearm had been found.

Caymanians Leon St. Michael Hydes and Clebeland Swaby Powery, along with Jamaican national Marlon Crowe – not to be confused with Caymanian Marlon Crowe – pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy to import 194 pound of ganja. Last Wednesday, they received prison terms ranging from 34 months to four and a half years.

Crown counsel Scott Wainwright conducted the prosecution. It was based on the fact that on Feb. 4, Cayman’s Joint Marine Unit on board the vessel Guardian found the men in a boat drifting approximately 20 miles off East End. Also on board was a large amount of ganja. The men were arrested on suspicion of importation of the drug; they and the vessel were brought to Grand Cayman. Inside the packages of ganja, officers found a firearm and 64 rounds of ammunition.

The men pleaded not guilty to the firearms charge, saying they had no knowledge of it. After trial last week, Justice Quin found there was no case for them to answer. He pointed out that there was no forensic evidence such as fingerprints or DNA to link any of them to the gun; there were fingerprints on it but they were not identified. He also noted that there was no evidence of any of them being involved in the packing of the ganja and no evidence that anyone told them about the gun in the ganja. Therefore they were all acquitted.

Defense attorneys agreed that the three men were aboard the vessel with the intention of bringing the ganja to Cayman. Hydes had coordinates for where they were to meet another boat at sea so that the ganja could be transferred.

On behalf of Powery, 32, attorney John Furniss accepted his client had previous convictions, but none for dealing with ganja. “As far as he was concerned, he was just assisting,” Mr. Furniss said.

Attorney Nicholas Dixey said Hydes, 34, had considered a defense of duress because he had been threatened and shots were fired at his house. Hydes had admitted to having drug debt because of his ganja use; he was looking for a way to wipe out that debt. Mr. Dixey accepted that this defendant had received an eight-year sentence for possessing a firearm, which he had been asked to look after for a friend. He previously had received nine months for a ganja-related offense.

Attorney Crister Brady advised the court that Crowe, 34, had no previous conviction in Cayman or in Jamaica. “He considered the trip to be a one-off to make some money,” the attorney said.

Justice Quin described the amount of ganja as a significant haul – 16 separate bags – ready to supply. He did not doubt that other people were involved, both in Jamaica and in Cayman.

Because the men pleaded guilty, they would get a discount, but not the usual one-third, the judge said. He determined that 20 percent was appropriate.

On that basis, Crowe was sentenced to two years, 10 months.

For Swaby, the judge considered that the aggravating factor of his previous convictions balanced the mitigating factor of his plea and sentenced him to three and a half years.

In Hydes’ case, Justice Quin explained, the previous convictions were a more serious aggravating factor and he imposed a sentence of four and a half years.