St. John’s Antigua- Fours years in jail plus a fine of $100,000 each are the penalties High Court Judge Keith Thom imposed on Cedric Merchant, Glenroy Pilgrim and Othniel Roberts yesterday.
Earlier this month the trio was found guilty of unlawful possession of close to 800 pounds of cannabis and intent to supply the drug to others.
However, the penalties imposed relate only to the conviction on the charge of intent to supply since Justice Thom reprimanded and discharged the men on the other offence.
The fine must be paid within one year and in default the three would serve another two years in jail.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Anthony Armstrong also asked the court to order the forfeiture of the two vehicles seized during the bust of the 792.7 pounds of marijuana.
The DPP said the jeep and the pick-up truck were used in the conveyance of the illegal substance from Pigeon Point to All Saints.
The Court will hand down its decision next Friday.
Roberts’ legal counsel Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin had pleaded with the court for leniency as he indicated Roberts was an upstanding citizen up until the 2010 incident when he was 34 years old.
Over 220 residents of the Bolans community where Roberts lived, signed a petition asking the court not to be harsh in its sentencing
Pastor Calvert Aaron led the petition.
Meantime, a probation officer who prepared a Social Enquiry Report on Roberts, opined that the convict acted upon a financial opportunity that presented itself, without any consideration for the effects or consequences of his actions.
Benjamin also represented Pilgrim. The lawyer said Pilgrim, 47, was also a first-time offender and had been a good Samaritan all his life.
“He has reached out to many people. Anyone can call on him at any time and he has not asked for anything in return,” Benjamin said. “He’s a good Samaritan with a sterling character and his children have been suffering since the incident.”
The attorney said his client, a professional plumber, has always been a hard worker.
Both Roberts and Pilgrim expressed remorse.
The third man, 37-year-old Merchant, also apologised to the Court for participating in the crime. Unlike his co-convicts, Merchant has a criminal record of two prior convictions.
Attorney Cosbert Cumberbach asked court to be lenient; to look at the roles each individual played and to impose the sentences accordingly.
While the trio joined the prison population last evening, their two co-convicts, Lemuel Samuel and Curt Lewis of St Vincent & the Grenadines, who pleaded guilty last November, finished serving their sentences earlier this month.
Winchester Meade, a sixth man who was also initially charged, was not prosecuted as he had eventually become Crown witness in the trial against Merchant, Roberts and Pilgrim.
During the trial, the jury had heard that officers from the Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP) and the Narcotics Department executed the bust at Meade’s Matthews Road, All Saints home on March 1, 2010.
The officers said they saw three men enter a pickup and as they approached, two other men ran to the back of the yard in which the vehicle was parked.
The officers drove up to the entrance of the yard to block the pickup, driven by Pilgrim.
Pilgrim was nabbed on the scene while Merchant and Roberts were later caught in a nearby village.
The officers entered Meade’s home as he emerged from his bathroom into the hallway, where the contraband was found stashed in 12 crocus bags.
Meade testified that Merchant, his cousin, called him on the day of the police operation and told him he would visit.
He said when Merchant arrived, he invited him inside to eat and it was then he saw several other men in his (Merchant’s) company.
Meade said he left the men and went to the bathroom and when he emerged from the shower he was confronted by lawmen.
Both Benjamin and Cumberbatch had accused Meade of being the mastermind of the entire operation as they doubted his testimony and insisted he knew of the operation.
However, the DPP said the evidence, including statements by the accused, proved otherwise.
In his statement, Merchant said he never told Meade anything about taking friends and the drugs to his home, while Roberts and Pilgrim said they only offered to help Merchant carry the bags but did not know their contents.
Yesterday, Justice Thom described the incident as a “clandestine operation” that “clearly” needed the co-operation of all the convicts, given the quantity of drugs taken off the boat and transported in the two vehicles.