A woman “under pressure” to carry cocaine from Grand Cayman to Cayman Brac was sentenced to two years, eight months in prison on Monday.
Samantha Leeann Christian, 29, admitted to having the drug with intent to supply on Sept. 15, 2017, at Owen Roberts International Airport.
Crown counsel Kenneth Ferguson told Magistrate Valdis Foldats that customs officers were in the departure lounge with passengers for the flight to Cayman Brac. They noticed a male passenger whose behavior attracted their suspicion, so they directed that his luggage be removed from the plane.
The man said one of his packages belonged to his cousin, Ms. Christian, who was already on board the plane. She was escorted back to the terminal along with her belongings, which included two suitcases, a gym bag, a pet carrier and a purse. These items were searched.
Ms. Christian was then asked if she had drugs on her person. Eventually she said yes, that the drugs were in her underwear. She subsequently produced a transparent plastic bag with four smaller bags inside containing matter that resembled crack cocaine. A fifth small bag contained powder.
The items were analyzed and proved to be 22 grams of cocaine base and six grams of cocaine salt, totaling approximately one ounce.
Ms. Christian said she got the drugs for $600 from a Jamaican man, but refused to identify him. She said she was going to sell the drug in Cayman Brac to make some quick cash. She indicated she was put “under pressure” by a third party, but refused to name that person because it would cause problems for her.
She initially pleaded guilty to simple possession, but when the Crown did not accept that plea, she admitted possession with intent to supply.
Defense attorney Amelia Fosuhene asked the court to consider her client’s personal factors and unresolved issues. Ms. Christian grew up with “an incredibly dysfunctional family” and suffered abuse, the attorney said. Then someone was good to her.
“When people come into your life and are kind to you, you may feel pressure to help them,” the attorney said. “She has not had the right people around her who would offer assistance.”
Ms. Christian had only a part-time job, so along with the pressure to carry the cocaine, there was a “sweetener” in the form of earning some money, Ms. Fosuhene said.
She pointed to the defendant’s frankness with the customs officers and her interviewer, along with her early guilty plea and no relevant previous convictions.
The magistrate said anyone who is in court regularly hears these same personal circumstances, financial problems and pressures.
“That is some mitigation but not sufficient to avoid immediate imprisonment,” he said. “If you reduce sentences because vulnerable people are used, then drug traffickers will use vulnerable people.”
The magistrate said everyone had to realize how serous cocaine offenses are. Week in and week out, the court saw people who had wrecked their health and/or lost their job because of cocaine. He referred to remarks made in an earlier case – that cocaine is not a “party” drug, that users are supporting a drug trade in which people are murdered or subjected to unspeakable acts. In the local family court, magistrates saw children who had to be rescued from a life affected by their parents’ addiction.
That was why the Chief Justice had set eight years as a starting point for offenses involving two ounces or more of cocaine. Magistrate Foldats agreed that the lesser quantity of one ounce would mitigate the sentence, and he accepted that Ms. Christian’s offending was a “one-off.” He told her, “I have no evidence you were connected with any ongoing enterprise.”
He said it was clear she had been dealing with significant factors in her life when she made the decision to carry the cocaine.
That said, the most important factor for him was deterring other people from trying to do the same thing.
“I have to send a message in the clearest terms: If you are involved in the cocaine trade, you will go to jail,” he said.
With the starting point of eight years, he indicated that mitigating factors reduced that to four years. Then he applied a full one-third discount, bringing the sentence to 32 months.
“I cannot suspend it,” he concluded.