By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
AN ex-policeman was spared an immediate prison sentence yesterday after he pleaded guilty to possession of nearly $7,000 worth of marijuana.
Mario Meadows, 32, of Shady Avenue appeared before Magistrate Andrew Forbes with his fiancée, Gertrude Leslie, as they were charged with possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply.
While his 32-year-old fiancée pleaded not guilty to the allegation that was eventually withdrawn against her, the former police constable pleaded guilty to the crime committed on November 19.
Magistrate Forbes determined that while 4.6 pounds of marijuana was a significant amount of drugs for a single individual to be in possession of, he believed that a fine of $5,000 was a suitable punishment for the offence. The court ordered that $3,000 of the fine was due at the end of the day.
On the day in question, police acted on a tip that led them to Meadows’ residence. Producing a search warrant, officers commenced a search of the property and found the marijuana and $4,275 cash underneath a bed.
“Mr Meadows, when interviewed in police custody, acknowledged knowing the drugs were on the premises,” prosecutor Supt Ercell Dorsett told the magistrate.
Meadows’ lawyer, Jomo Campbell, asked the court to “balance justice and mercy” in considering a punishment for his client who was keeping the contraband for a friend. “He’s extremely remorseful for bringing his fiancée into this matter,” the lawyer said.
Mr Campbell said his client deserved a non-custodial sentence given his early plea of guilt, lack of antecedents and relative youth.
The lawyer also sought a stay on confiscation of the $4,000, which, he said, belonged to the fiancée that was lawfully obtained from a loan from the bank.
“Does the prosecution have any information that the funds belonged to the fiancée?” the magistrate asked. The police prosecutor said no.
“She’s been in custody for 48 hours and the opportunity wasn’t afforded to her by the investigating officers to produce proof of the same,” Mr Campbell said.
Addressing Meadows, Magistrate Forbes asked him: “Is there any reason you were in possession of 4.6 pounds of marijuana?”
“I do apologise,” Meadows said.
“I understand that but my question still remains,” the magistrate said.
“A friend of mine, I was holding it for them,” the former police officer said.
The judge said: “And so a decision made by someone in his 30s to hold on to something illegal. What if they were in a plot to set you and your family up? Was your common sense overruled by some other factor?”
Meadows admitted that he did not think the matter through.
“I’ve taken into consideration your relative youth, prior lack of convictions, early plea of guilt and the amount of drugs involved. It’s still a significant amount of drugs for an individual to be in possession of,” the magistrate said.
He imposed a fine of $5,000 or two years imprisonment, stressing, “The fine has to be paid today.”
“Will the court accept partial payment of $2,000 today, $500 on Friday and the balance at the end of next month?” Mr Campbell asked.
“I will accept $3,000 by today and the balance in a month’s time, December 28,” the magistrate said yesterday.
The magistrate also said he would give the accused’s counsel until November 30 to produce proof that the $4,000 were not proceeds of a crime.