Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn sentenced former Department of Immigration staffers Stephen Wayne Hurlston and Oscar Lee Watler to 12.5 years’ imprisonment on Wednesday for possessing 1.61 pounds of cocaine with intent to supply in October 2015.
The defense attorneys for the men both said that they intend to appeal Magistrate Gunn’s conviction and sentence.
Mr. Hurlston, 28, and Mr. Watler, 34, were allegedly found by police in October 2015 while they were parked in a secluded lot near Patrick’s Island. Magistrate Gunn said the police officer testified that he found multiple packages of cocaine, a scale and a razor blade before arresting Mr. Hurlston and Mr. Watler.
Magistrate Gunn said during her verdict in May that the defense sought to prove reasonable doubt by pointing out that neither defendant’s DNA was found on the packages of cocaine. The defense also noted during the trial that no significant quantities of cash were found on the defendants or at their homes.
However, the magistrate pointed to the “close proximity” of the defendants to the packages of cocaine and said the only reasonable conclusion was that the drugs were being prepared for supply. Magistrate Gunn also said she found the testimony of the police officer to be largely consistent and credible.
During a sentencing hearing last week, defense attorneys pleaded leniency for their clients, saying that they were not hardened drug dealers, but simply “incompetent amateurs” and “nothing but bumbling drug dealers.”
The two defendants were not experienced drug dealers, but found the cocaine, said Mr. Watler’s defense attorney, John Furniss. Instead of rightly turning it over to the authorities, in their excitement, they decided to keep it in their possession, according to the attorney.
Magistrate Gunn said on Wednesday that she believed the defendants indeed found the cocaine and did not purchase it. However, she said, the fact that police also found scales and small baggies showed that “their enterprise was already at an advanced stage.”
The magistrate determined that sentencing guidelines called for the starting point to be at 15 years for the defendants. She said the fact that they found the drugs, they had no prior convictions and other mitigating factors warranted their sentence to be reduced to 12.5 years.
At the end of Wednesday’s hearing, Mr. Furniss and Mr. Hurlston’s attorney, Steve McField, both announced their intentions to appeal Magistrate Gunn’s conviction and sentence.