By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A JAMAICAN man returns to Magistrates Court today to say whether or not he owned the marijuana found in his luggage five days ago, when he and six others were pulled over in a van following a failed attempted to be smuggled into the United States.
Barrington Robinson, 48, of St Thomas, Jamaica claimed to be under duress on Tuesday, when he, on four occasions, switched his plea from guilty to not guilty and back.
He was appearing before Deputy Chief Magistrate Carolita Bethel to be arraigned on a charge of possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply.
After Robinson admitted he was stressed from the pressure of not being able to see his young child and the possibility of going to jail for four years, the magistrate granted him time to think about his plea.
Robinson, along with countrymen Roger Williams, 33, of Kingston; Christopher Salmon, 44, of Westmore; Kirk Wilson, 33, of St James; and Suszanna Latouche, 46, of Kingston were arraigned on the charge, as were Haitian national Junior St Jean, 22, of Carmichael Road; and Bahamian Richard Johnson, 42.
It is claimed that on February 2 in Freeport, Grand Bahama, they were in possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply.
The seven defendants, driving in a van, were pulled over by Mobile Division police officers near Harbour Shopping Centre.
A search turned up 14 pounds of marijuana in two separate packages.
All of the accused but Robinson pleaded not guilty.
The following is the account of the case read by prosecutor ASP Ercell Dorsett:
On the day in question, around 9pm, officers we were on mobile patrol in Eight Mile Rock when went to the Harbour Shopping Centre as the result of a tip.
The officers parked their vehicle and were on the look out for a van. When they spotted it, they ordered the vehicle to stop and told the occupants they were suspected of human smuggling.
In the van were several carry-on bags, one containing a package of marijuana.
The other was in the trunk.
Robinson had claimed ownership of the bag containing marijuana, but no one claimed the drugs in the trunk. They were all arrested.
In his interview with police, Robinson said he didn’t know how the drugs got in the bag.
Yesterday, the prosecutor noted that the seven accused had no antecedents in the Bahamas. The Deputy Chief Magistrate asked Robinson if he accepted the summation of the alleged incident. The accused said yes.
“The drugs, how did it get there?” the magistrate asked him.
Robinson answered that the men who were supposed to take them to their destination had put it there and he didn’t know about the drugs until his bag was opened by police.
Deputy Chief Magistrate Bethell said she could not accept his guilty plea because it was not unequivocal.
She told the defendants: “I’m going to deny bail to all of you.”
As soon as she said this, Latouche burst into tears and began sobbing.
The magistrate said to attorneys Simeon Brown and Troy Kellman that she would try to schedule an early court date.
Robinson then said he wanted to plead guilty.
The magistrate asked him where he got the drugs from and he said “I get it from this friend of mine. I was going to smoke it.”
“He gave you 14 pounds of marijuana to smoke?” the magistrate asked.
Robinson said yes, that he was going to the US with the drugs for his own use.
The magistrate again noted that she could not accept the guilty plea because it was still not unequivocal, as he claimed personal use.
The female accused began crying again and Salmon appeared to be telling Robinson something when he was chastised by the prosecutor and ordered to stand on the opposite side of the line-up.
Robinson, for a third time, opted to plead guilty, and explained how he and his co-accused came to be before the court.
“This guy in Freeport tell us they could take us to the US,” he said.
He claimed to have paid $8,000 for the trip.
“We supposed to go on this boat,” he added, noting that they had only made it out to sea before turning back when it appeared they were spotted by a patrol boat.
Robinson said he assumes the drugs were planted by their would-be smugglers, during the time he and the others were arranging to “catch a ride”.
The magistrate said she would set the matter for trial on June 21, not accepting Robinson’s plea.
Latouche cried out and begged for the magistrate to give him another chance to “tell the truth”.
“Please your honour, let him tell you the truth! I beg you! One more time, please!” she said.
“Only if you promise to keep quiet and stop crying,” the magistrate said, adding that Robinson could not be pressured into doing something he did not want to.
She turned to Robinson and asked where he got the drugs from.
“I got it from this guy name Darril,” he said.
“What were you going to do with the drugs when you go to the US?” the magistrate asked.
“I was going over to smoke” he said.
His co-accused appeared to be displeased at his answer, and Robinson said he was stressed throughout the whole ordeal.
The magistrate said she would record his plea as not guilty and put the matter down for report on February 7 at 10am.
“I’m going to give you a couple of days to think about it. The attorneys or the accused persons cannot pressure you into doing something you don’t want.
“If anyone tries to force you to change your mind, you let me know,” she said.
Robinson and his six co-accused return to court today.