Charges send wrong message

| 25/03/2010

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman headline news, Cayman court news(CNS): The arrest and charge of Cassandra Bodden for the importation of firearms and ammunition sends completely the wrong message to people about assisting law enforcement, her defence attorney claimed on Wednesday. Addressing the jury at the close of Bodden’s Grand Court trial, Ben Tonner (left) pointed out that the only reason why officials found the four guns and 420 rounds of ammunition was because Bodden had been honest and told people in authority that she was not expecting the package. The lawyer stated that if his client had remained quiet the inspection would never have happened and the guns could have made their way on to the street.

Tonner said that far from being charged his client should have received a financial reward for her honesty, as stated under the Customs Law, for assisting in the prevention of smuggling. Tonner noted that instead of receiving thanks for her assistance in bringing it to the attention of officialsthat she was not expecting the package, alerting them to inspect it, she was arrested, charged and now faced a serious threat to her liberty.

"Let that be a lesson to the next person who thinks about alerting customs to a package they are not sure about. What kind of message does that send?" Tonner asked the jury rhetorically, before he said that the guns would now be on the street, but by alerting the authorities she prevented that from happening. "But look how she is being rewarded,” he added.

Tonner also noted the missed opportunity by law enforcement to track the real criminals. By arresting this innocent young women instead they had missed the chance to follow the package and track who the weapons were really intended for, he observed.

He noted that the crown’s case was based on its assumption that Bodden was guilty of importation because she knew the guns were in the package. But, he said, the crown had fallen far short of proving that his client had any knowledge whatsoever of the guns. Tonner said his client had absolutely no idea that the package contained firearms and ammunition and the crown had not proved otherwise.

Tonner told the jury that his client had virtually shouted from the roof tops that she was not expecting the package and was unsure of the content. He asked them to use their common sense and ask themselves if they really believed that her behaviour was that of someone who knew the package was full of guns.

Four hand guns and 420 rounds of ammunition had been found by customs officers when they inspected the package sent to Bodden. The court heard that the package was a child size "Barbie Power wheel" toy car and that the weapons had been hidden under the seats in the interior of the toy.

During her closing statement Trisha Hutchinson, who was prosecuting the case for the crown, suggested that all of Bodden’s protestations of innocence were deliberately concocted so when the game was up and the authorities discovered the weapons she had covered her tracks. In the end, Hutchinson suggested that Bodden had gone too far with those protestations and tripped herself up.

Hutchinson said her behaviour demonstrated that she knew the guns were there as she had paid all the fees associated with the toy and she had still gone to collect the package, despite being warned not to by several police officers who were her friends. Hutchinson claimed she had also tripped up, as revealed by witnesses, when she had given conflicting statements about what she had said in relation to the contents of the package. In the days leading up to the discovery of the weapons, Hutchinson said, Bodden had told some people she might know who the package was from and that she was aware the package contained a toy car, while she told others she was not expecting anything and did not know what was in the package.

Hutchinson said Bodden’s claims of ignorance were "the cover story" to fall back on if she were discovered. The crown prosecutor told the jury to study Bodden’s statement carefully as they would see her protestations of innocence seemed too contrived, as she was "trying to cloak the presence of knowledge" of the guns. She said Bodden was not being straight in order to cover up the fact that she knew what was in the package. “She knew, she knew,” Hutchinson insisted as she drew her opening statement to a close.

Justice Howard Cooke, the presiding judge, adjourned the case until 10:00am Thursday morning when, he told the jury, he would give them his summing up before they were sentto deliberate on their verdict.

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  1. Nicky Watson says:

    Apologies to those who commented before we remembered to close the comment box. You will be able to comment on this case when the trial is over.