Two men received the same sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply ganja, but their sentences for possession of firearms differed by more than six years.
Chadwick Cameron Ebanks, 40, and Ralston Benjamin Ebanks, 41, were sentenced to two years, eight months in prison for the offense of conspiring, with others unknown, to supply the illegal drug on or before July 6, 2017.
Mr. Chadwick received 18 months, concurrent, for possession of two unlicensed air pistols, for a total sentence of two years and eight months.
Mr. Ralston received eight years, concurrent, for two unlicensed handguns, for a total sentence of eight years.
The sentences were handed down on Thursday via video link with Justice Philip St. John-Stevens, who heard the matter when he was on island earlier this year.
The facts were summarized at previous hearings by Crown counsel Toyin Salako. She said the ganja was found by police officers at a West Bay residence occupied by Mr. Chadwick, who had been arrested on an unrelated matter. Armed with a search warrant, officers also recovered two unlicensed air pistols from under a pillow in his bedroom.
In another room, they found a locked briefcase, which they forced open. It contained correspondence in Mr. Ralston’s name, a Ruger semi-automatic revolver, a .38 caliber revolver with one live round in it, four rounds of 9 mm ammunition and cash in the sum of CI$51,025 and US$12,000.
When Mr. Chadwick was interviewed, he told officers about other cash in the house. They searched the kitchen and found $2,100 in one jar, $980 in another jar, and $7,224 in a teapot, for a total of $10,304.
In a prepared statement, Mr. Chadwick said the drugs were brought to the house four months earlier by two men who said they had found it wet on the beach while they were out fishing. Together they salvaged what they could, placed it in jars to be used as cannabis oil or tea. He denied any intention of selling it. Officers did not find any evidence of cannabis oil or tea at the premises. The total weight of the ganja found was 13.8 pounds.
Mr. Ralston was arrested on July 18 at his residence in George Town. At the time, he was in possession of a bag with five packs of ganja, each wrapped in a transparent bag. The total weight was 4.2 ounces. In a prepared statement later, Mr. Ralston denied any knowledge of the drugs found in Mr. Chadwick’s home and said the ganja he had on him was for personal use.
Bail was refused for both men and they subsequently made further admissions. They pleaded guilty to their respective firearm charges in August last year. The ganja conspiracy charge was set for trial in February 2018, but they then pleaded guilty. The maximum sentence for conspiracy is 10 years.
Both men pleaded guilty to possession of criminal property – the money – which the judge said was indicative of the success of their intent to supply ganja. He ordered the forfeiture of all of the cash and imposed no separate penalty.
Justice St. John-Stevens said the guns were used to protect the drugs and the money.
In mitigation, defense attorney Jonathon Hughes said Mr. Chadwick did not know that a license was required for an air pistol.
In the Firearms Law, the definition of a firearm includes air pistols. The section that deals with a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years does not mention air pistols specifically. It lists “a machine gun, sub-machine gun, rifle, shotgun, pistol, or any lethal barrelled weapon from which any shot, bullet or other missile can be discharged.”
Attorney Nicholas Dixey accepted that Mr. Ralston was subject to the mandatory minimum seven years. The judge found no exceptional circumstance to lower that sentence, but did find aggravating circumstances to raise it.
He said their time in custody would count on the conspiracy sentence.