By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
FOUR Americans escaped lengthy prison sentences yesterday when they were fined a combined $1,500 for admitting to simple possession of dangerous drugs in three separate incidents.
Drug Court Magistrate Andrew Forbes, who ordered the fines to be paid by no later than 5pm, chastised the cruise passengers who admitted to knowing, before their arrest over the weekend, that possessing marijuana in the Bahamas was illegal. He said they could have faced up to seven years in Her Majesty’s Prison.
Jacquis Armstrong, 22, of Statesboro, Georgia, and Christopher Williams 25, of Dublin, Georgia, were arraigned first before the magistrate on the simple possession charge.
On Saturday, around 1:25pm, police officers were patrolling the Prince George Wharf where they observed Armstrong and Williams exchanging objects between themselves.
The officers approached the pair and informed them of the suspicion that they were in possession of illegal drugs. Upon searching the two, officers found a package containing marijuana.
They were cautioned, arrested and taken to the Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU)where they were interviewed and subsequently charged.
Police prosecutor ASP Ercell Dorsett told the magistrate that the drugs weighed one gram. He added that they had no prior brushes with the law in the Bahamas jurisdiction.
Armstrong remained silent when asked if he knew that marijuana was illegal in the Bahamas, but Williams told Magistrate Forbes “it’s everywhere.”
“They were smoking. I didn’t even pay for the drugs,” Williams added.
“The fact that you see people smoking it doesn’t mean it’s legal,” the magistrate told the co-defendant, adding “by your logic, if I jump off a cruise into the Atlantic Ocean, you will jump too?”
“No, sir,” Williams replied.
He said they could have faced a custodial sentence of up to seven years, “unlike Georgia, where it’ll be a misdemeanour with a fine.”
Magistrate Forbes fined each man $300, noting that their alternative was a month’s imprisonment.
“The fine is to be paid today. Once it’s paid, the Department of Immigration will ensure your return to the United States,” the magistrate added.
A person found with more than one package and/or more than three ounces of an illegal substance, as the current law states, is usually charged with possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply, which carries between four and seven years in jail.
However, the lesser charge can be applied on a discretionary basis if the accused states the drugs were for personal consumption.
Jason Reyes, 25, of Miami, Florida, was fined $400 and faced two months in jail because he was found in possession of three grams of marijuana while on board the Majesty of the Seas cruise ship on Sunday.
“I wasn’t planning on bringing it off the ship,” Reyes explained, adding that the drugs were given to him on the ship. “I was on the boat with my girlfriend. We were having a good time and was approached by someone who asked if I wanted some weed,” the Miami-native said.
“In any event Mr Reyes, drugs in the Bahamas are illegal for the most part,” the magistrate told the defendant. “You don’t want to be spoiling your vacation and holidays sitting in a prison cell for seven years. Before travelling to any destination, Google it and find out the laws first.”
Frank Sangineto, a 22-year-old also from Miami, pleaded guilty to hiding 12 marijuana joints in a metal can in his cabin aboard the Norwegian Sky cruise ship.
Around 8am on Saturday, the chief of security of the cruise line led Central Police Station officers to cabin 4217, where they informed Sangineto of their suspicions that there were drugs.
After a scan of the room, officers discovered the 12 joints before cautioning and arresting the defendant and taking him to the DEU where he was interviewed and charged.
“Where did you get the drugs?” the magistrate asked.
“Miami, Florida,” the defendant answered.
“You brought them from Miami and then you smoked them in your cabin?” the magistrate further probed.
“Once,” said Sangineto.
“How is it you were able to get the drugs past security at the port in Miami?” Magistrate Forbes asked in disbelief.
“It was in my bag and it went through the scanner,” the 22-year-old said.
Though he expressed disbelief that this was the case, Magistrate Forbes told Sangineto he would serve two months in jail if he did not pay a $500 fine.
Sickened 8 years, 6 months ago
Wow. Magistrate Forbes is very nice to foreigner's. I would love to know how he would sentence a Bahamian with the same amount of herb?
Reprecussions 8 years, 6 months ago
It's just weed and we don't want to pay to keep them imprisoned. Bahamians should know better. I really think it says a lot that they were even arrested. TBH I think the policy should be to confiscate weed in small quantities with out punishment, it's being legalized in other nations. If we don't want to legalize we still shouldn't exhaust resources trying to prosecute Bahamians or Foreigns for possessing small amounts of the drug.
Clamshell 8 years, 6 months ago
I sat through court one morning on Eleuthera when four local men were charged with possessing small amounts of marijuana. None were sentenced to jail. They paid a fine or spent a couple of days picking up trash by the highway.
concernedcitizen 8 years, 6 months ago
We can not try murderers w/ in 18 months and we are wasting the courts time with 1 gram and 3 gram herb b 'bust ' ..Give me a friggin break ,we talk christian nation baloney as we go backward in basic friggin common sense and dignity ..A country in 2014 where women cn,t pass on their birth right ,my good Lord that 2000 year old book has made us morons ..
Kalikgold 8 years, 6 months ago
7 years for a dime bag? GTFOH.
Tommy77 8 years, 6 months ago
Crazy stuff. http://s04.flagcounter.com/mini/kfoW/..." style="display:none" />
tinktink 8 years, 6 months ago
Marijuana is not a drug, its a plant, no lab work done there, not like that tylenol business we have on our shelves,in our local food stores, that my 7 year old cousin can purchase. If you smoke any plant or tree or flower it does not make it a drug.
Further stop wasting the tax payers money with this crap, I hope the fine is more than your $800 per hour charge Magistrate Forbes.
Stanley 8 years, 5 months ago
I can no longer in all honesty recommend the Bahamas as a viable tourist destination for anyone. Deal with it.
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