By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A MAN was spared an immediate prison sentence yesterday after he maintained his guilty plea to possession of more than $25,000 worth of marijuana.
Christopher Brown, 33, along with his 50-year-old mother Velerie Johnson-Brown, Vanessa Brown, Marguerite Brown and Kendera Moss, 25, were arraigned in Magistrate’s Court on Friday concerning the seizure of 26 pounds of marijuana on May 10.
Although the 33-year-old pleaded guilty to possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply, the other defendants entered not guilty pleas at their arraignment before Deputy Chief Magistrate Andrew Forbes.
According to police reports, officers were on patrol on Market Street when they saw three men behaving in a suspicious manner in front of a home.
As the officers approached, one of the men fled towards the house where the drugs were found. This suspect has not yet been arraigned as he is in hospital receiving treatment for a gunshot injury received during the chase.
The officers allegedly smelled marijuana coming from a car in the yard and officers found packages of drugs inside the trunk of the car that was registered to the 33-year-old accused.
The search continued inside the home and police found more marijuana hidden under the floor.
In yesterday’s proceedings, Deputy Chief Magistrate Forbes asked the 33 year old if he still maintained his guilty plea.
Brown said he did.
His lawyer Nathan Smith made a mitigation plea on his behalf.
Mr Smith said that the married man and father of one is a carpenter and interior designer by profession who had no prior convictions.
He said his client not only surrendered to police and cooperated with their investigation, but he had not wasted the court’s time and assumed responsibility for his actions.
Mr Smith said from the character references submitted to the court on his client’s behalf, “everything suggests this is a departure from his character and an isolated incident.”
“He’s extremely remorseful having to put his family through this, particularly his mother on Mother’s Day,” Mr Smith added.
“If given the chance to rehabilitate, he’ll continue down a positive path,” the lawyer continued.
Mr Smith said a custodial sentence was not warranted as it would be counter-productive to rehabilitation efforts and noted that the prison was already overcrowded.
He also expressed concern for his client’s safety if incarcerated, noting that the only means for survival in such a facility was to join a gang for protection.
“He’s not shown any characteristics of joining a gang,” Mr Smith added.
The deputy chief magistrate accepted the guilty plea and formally convicted Brown of the charge.
While accepting the submissions argued by the defence, the judge noted his confusion “as to why this defendant would secure 26.3 pounds of marijuana in the car and his house.”
“Your actions show a degree of callousness, a lack of judgment and selfishness,” the deputy chief magistrate added.
The judge told Brown that the court was empowered by law to impose a fine of up to $250,000 and/or seven years imprisonment.
However, having weighed all of the mitigating circumstances against the aggravating circumstances, the judge instead imposed a fine of $30,000.
“If the fine is not paid you will serve three years at the Department of Correctional Services,” the judge added.
The charges were withdrawn against the other defendants, except for Curtis.