Three Jamaican nationals who pleaded guilty to importing 461.74 pounds of ganja were sentenced on Friday, with one man receiving a prison term more than twice as long as the other two.
Leroy Johnoton Morgan, 31, and Demarco Deinton Cunningham, 37, were sentenced to two and a half years. Derrick Anthony Adlam, 53, was sentenced to five years and four months. All three, from the Whitehouse area of Westmoreland, admitted importing the ganja on Sept. 14.
Magistrate Valdis Foldats explained that the first two defendants had no previous convictions in Cayman and only minor convictions in Jamaica. Mr. Adlam, however, had three previous convictions in Cayman, including a ganja-related offense in 1999 for which he received two and a half years, and another in 2014, for which he received 45 months.
The maximum sentence for a first ganja offense is seven years. The maximum for a second or subsequent ganja offense is 15 years.
The magistrate started Mr. Adlam’s sentence at eight years, but then gave him a full one-third credit for his guilty plea, bringing 96 months down to 64.
The starting point for the other men was four years: with three months deducted for mitigating factors, the total was 45 months; with one third off for their plea, the final figure was 30 months.
The magistrate commended the officers of the Joint Marine Unit who had intercepted the defendants in their canoe off East End. The operation had been dangerous because it occurred at night and the persons in the canoe could have been armed, he pointed out. In addition to arresting the defendants, the officers had recovered the large amount of ganja.
Despite this overwhelming evidence, the magistrate said he was giving full credit for the guilty pleas because the six police officers involved were not required to waste time in court for a trial instead of being out on patrol. In addition, he said he wanted to encourage other guilty individuals to take advantage of the discount. One-third credit should be a powerful incentive for recent offenders to take advantage of, he suggested.
But the magistrate said the court should be cautious in attaching weight to defendants’ personal circumstances when considering sentences. Family problems or financial difficulties are no excuse for illegal behavior, he pointed out. If these factors were considered as mitigating, then the organizers of drug importations would recruit carriers or crew who had family problems or financial difficulties.
In Mr. Adlam’s case, two of his sons had died in separate traffic accidents and he had needed to borrow money to bury them. When he could not pay the money back, threats were made against him, his daughter and the daughter’s mother, attorney Amelia Fosuhene had told the court. The alternative offered to him was to get involved in this ganja shipment, which he did.
In Mr. Cunningham’s case, his wife was suffering from cancer, attorney Margeta Facey-Clarke said. He did not earn enough as a fisherman to meet medical expenses, so in desperation, he had walked the streets asking for donations. He came across some men who said they had a job for him: he could get some money by making a delivery in international waters.
He said no and continued seeking donations. When he saw the men again, they offered him Ja$200,000 (roughly $1,300). Since he had raised only Ja$31,000 (roughly $200), he accepted.
Attorney Jonathon Hughes spoke for Mr. Morgan, noting it was his client’s first time in prison. He had not been able to complete his schooling because of financial constraints, but had developed construction and auto body repair skills by which he supported family members. Now he was in anguish because of the suffering he had caused them.
The magistrate accepted that the defendants were all family men who will be unlikely to see their families again until they complete their sentences. That was a foreseeable consequence, he said. They had made the decision to come to Cayman with drugs, so they had to accept the results of their actions.
Sentencing for ganja importation is based on three considerations, the magistrate said: the quantity involved, the defendant’s role and the defendant’s previous convictions.
The people who bring the ganja to Cayman are the link between the foreign supplier and the local distributor, he said, and crew members may not even know who the foreign supplier is.
In this case, he was treating all three defendants as crew. Crown counsel Kenneth Ferguson had fairly agreed that there was no evidence as to who was the captain of the boat, although the magistrate admitted to having a high suspicion.
He ordered that the boat be forfeited to the Crown.