A Grenadian-born New York resident was on Monday fined $20, 000 to be paid forthwith or face in default a prison sentence of two (2) years after pleading guilty to a charge of Conspiracy to Import 6 pounds of marijuana into the country.
The sentence was handed down by Chief Magistrate Tamara Gill on 44-year-old Branford Charles, who is originally from Bonair, St. Mark but has been living in New York since migrating there at the age of 18.
Charles, who holds a multiplicity of jobs in the United States, along with 26-year-old Disc Jockey, Brian ‘Jabba’ Charles of Woodlands and member of The Progress Party, Basil Williams, were all apprehended by police in connection with the illegal substance, which was found concealed in a package inside a barrel that was in the process of being cleared at the AmeriJet warehouse at Frequente, St. George.
The 6 pounds of marijuana, carries an estimated street value of $34, 000.
Williams and Jabba were apprehended on May 3 and May 4, respectively, while Charles was apprehended when visiting them at the South St. George Police Station on May 5.
The trio were initially slapped with charges of Conspiracy to Traffic a Controlled Drug and Conspiracy to Import a Controlled Drug, however, only the charge of Conspiracy to Import a Controlled Drug was read out to them when they appeared in court on Monday.
“Jabba” and Williams pleaded not guilty to the offence, which was accepted by the Police Prosecution led by Corporal 764 Boris George, who discontinued the charges against them.
The two stayed back in court to hear the outcome of the case against the other co-accused.
Criminal defense attorney, Derrick Sylvester, who represented Charles in the matter, objected to the Police Prosecution repeating evidence that was given by “Jabba” and Williams during police interrogation, as the matter against them was dismissed.
This point of law was upheld by the Chief Magistrate, who did not allow Cpl George to unveil some key evidence in the case.
It was revealed that Charles, a father of 3 who frequents the island at least three times a year, had the barrel shipped to Grenada on someone else’s name as he was not sure he would arrive in time to do the processing of the documentation at Customs himself.
There are unconfirmed reports that the barrel was shipped from New York in the name of Williams but “Jabba” was the one who went to get the paperwork done to get it cleared.
Attorney Sylvester argued that “the extent of his (Charles) participation in the offence was minimal” and apologised for the offence on his behalf.
With a smile on his face the drug accused stood up in the dock and apologised to the court for his actions.
In considering the aggravating and mitigating factors in the case, Charles who has one previous conviction dating back to 2011 for Causing Harm, was treated by the Chief Magistrate as a person who has no record of convictions.
The accused managed to escape the maximum sentence which is a fine of $250, 000 or 3 times the value of the drugs and or a maximum of 7 years imprisonment.
Accompanied by a police escort, Charles walked calmly out of the court without handcuffs, following the sentence hearing.
He is expected to remain in police custody or sent to the Richmond Hill prison until the $20, 000 fine is paid in full.