By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
ROUGH economic times is not an excuse to engage in behaviour that is illegal, a magistrate told two men in their 50s - moments before sentencing them for their involvement in a $800,000 drug smuggling plot.
Peter Taylor, 51, of Mangrove Cay, Andros, and Leeland Curling, 52, of Winton Meadows, were sentenced to five years at Her Majesty’s Prison yesterday on charges of importation of dangerous drugs and possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply.
With respect to the other charges, conspiracy to import dangerous drugs and conspiracy to possess dangerous drugs with intent to supply, Magistrate Andrew Forbes sentenced the men to two years, ordering that all sentences would run concurrently.
Last Friday, these two men along with William Curling, 45, of Sea Breeze Estates, Andrew Adderley, 46, of Long Island, and Onique James, a 25-year-old Jamaican, appeared before the magistrate accused of the four offences.
Only Taylor pleaded guilty at the time and police prosecutor ASP Ercell Dorsett asked for an adjournment until March 5 so that he would be able to fully read the file to ensure he would have all the facts regarding Taylor’s involvement.
He also said he would be in a position to inform the court if he would proceed prosecution against Taylor’s co-accused, who pleaded not guilty.
Yesterday, Taylor maintained his guilty plea and was joined by Leeland Curly who also asked to have the charges re-read to him where he then pleaded guilty to all four.
ASP Dorsett said he would still proceed against the remaining defendants and they are scheduled to stand trial on June 9. Before they were remanded to prison however, attorney Koed Smith - Adderley’s lawyer - claimed police brutality against his client.
Mr Smith said his client was hospitalised as a result of the injuries he received to the groin and had yet to be administered medication given to him.
Magistrate Forbes noted the complaints before ordering their remand to prison.
On the early morning in question, a team of officers from the Drug Enforcement Unit and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force observed two men unloading a large quantity of suspected drugs from a small boat onto a waiting truck around 4am. The officers announced their presence and the two men ran away but were pursued and caught.
They were returned to the scene where they were cautioned and arrested when officers discovered a number of crocus sacks containing suspected marijuana. Both men confessed to police of their involvement and charges were brought against them.
Taylor and Curling accepted the facts read by the prosecutor and their attorney, Jomo Campbell, made pleas in mitigation on their behalf.
Mr Campbell said that Taylor was a well-known fisherman and despite having a number of convictions for simple possession between 1984 and 2006, he’d accepted from the outset that he faced a minimum of four years in jail for his actions.
“Mr Taylor has expressed remorse,” Campbell added before asking for leniency.
The attorney said Curling’s position and struggle were similar as he was also a fisherman and had a family of seven to provide for.
The attorney said although his client had two previous convictions stemming back to 1995, he had no pending matters before the courts.
Mr Campbell said the men understood that there is no excuse but they were experiencing ‘hard times’ and referred to their statements about being offered $15,000 for getting the drugs to Nassau.
Campbell, again, asked for the court’s leniency.
Taylor and Curling, when given an opportunity to speak, apologised for what they did and told the court that none of the other accused had any knowledge or involvement in the smuggling of the drugs.
The magistrate formally convicted the pair on the four drug charges before going on to address them.
“I recognise that times are rough for people and that would include practically everyone in this courtroom at some point,” the magistrate said.
“But that in of itself is no excuse to engage in behaviour that is illegal,” he added.
Magistrate Forbes further noted that the two men had a clear understanding and appreciation for what they were doing, considering that Taylor had been either fined or imprisoned for a short period when brought before the courts and Curling had served four years in jail for possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply.
The magistrate informed the two of the court’s discretion to sentence them within the range of four to seven years.
In the end, they were sentenced to five years on importation of dangerous drugs and possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply and two years on conspiracy to import dangerous drugs and conspiracy to possess dangerous drugs with intent to supply.
Magistrate Andrew Forbes ordered that all sentences would run concurrently and they had the right to appeal his decision within seven days of the sentencing date.