Coke retailer’s 12 year sentence cut on appeal

| 04/10/2011

(CNS): The chief justice has found that a prison sentence imposed on what he described as a “low level retailer” of drugs rather that a seasoned dealer was too severe and reduced the twelve year prison sentence to eight. Xavier Quincy Waldron was convicted in November last year of possession of cocaine with intent to supply by the chief magistrate. Although Chief Justice Anthony Smellie upheld the conviction in the Grand Court on Monday, the country’s top judge did reduce the sentence, which had been passed on Waldron based largely on the quantity of the drug found on him when he was arrested in the men’s restroom at a George Town bar in November 2008. 

When searched by a police officer under the Misuse of Drugs Law, Waldron was found to be carrying two packets of drugs — one containing a cream coloured rocklike substance and the other a white powder. He was arrested and when the drugs were later tested they were confirmed as being cocaine based. Waldron had admitted possession but denied supplying the drugs. Following a trial in Summary Court, when Waldron claimed that the almost 12 grams of cocaine were for his own use, even though he stated he was only an occasional user, he was found guilty by the magistrate.

At sentencing, based on the chief justice’s guidelines, Margaret Ramsey-Hale said the amount of the drug was significant and there was nothing to mitigate the circumstances after Waldron had been found guilty at trial. She also described the drug as “crack cocaine”, a more addictive form of the drug.

“The chief justice’s sentencing guidelines indicate a sentence of 10-12 years for dealing in 4 grams or more of cocaine base,” she said in her decision. “The defendant was found guilty after trial. Nothing mitigates the offence. The amount of crack cocaine involved is substantial.”

During the appeal against sentencing in the Grand Court before the chief justice, defence attorney Lucy Organ argued that the sentencing was excessive. Forensic analysis did not show the drug recovered from Waldron to be “crack” cocaine but “cocaine base”.

She also argued that while the chief magistrate found no mitigating circumstances, the evidence did not suggest that the appellant had got to the point of supplying drugs to anyone or made any financial profit. In addition, the evidence suggested the appellant was no more than a low level retailer, which should have attracted a lower sentence than one passed on a trafficker.

Although Waldron has previous convictions for ganja, Organ pointed out that he had none for cocaine or any other “hard” drug and the magistrate had chosen the highest tariff in the range of 10-12 years in the sentencing guidelines, even though the offending was not of the very worst kind of its type and so the “sentence was manifestly harsh and excessive” in the circumstances.
In his ruling the chief justice said Organ’s submissions carried some force and pointed out that the chief magistrate was guided by a literal construction of the sentencing guidelines, which do state that four grams or more of cocaine without mitigating features attract a tariff of 10-12 years. The “unduly heightened fears” that the drug might have been crack, taken together with the quantity may have influenced the magistrate to impose the sentence at the very upper end of the tariff.

“Given the circumstances, which do suggest that the appellant is not a seasoned dealer but at worse, a low level retailer, I consider that the sentence can properly be reduced to one of eight years imprisonment,” the chief justice ordered.

Organ’s attempts on her client’s behalf to have the conviction quashed failed as the chief Justice did not accept the argument that the magistrate should not have found her client guilty on intent to supply based purely on the evidence of quantity. The defence attorney argued that the crown had based its case entirely on the amount as there was no evidence of paraphernalia, cash, a drug dealing lifestyle, or how the drugs would be sold.

The chief justice said that the limited extent which the magistrate relied on her own knowledge of quantities of illicit drugs and their general use and consumption was permissible for the purpose of calling upon the appellant to explain why he had such a large amount of drugs. The CJ said that during the trial the magistrate had found that the quantity of drugs was inconsistent with personal use but she made no absolute finding based on that. He said the amount set against the absence of a credible explanation by the appellant was the basis for the magistrate’s findings, as he upheld the conviction.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    When you appeal a sentence that is already low then you double the original sentence not reduce it! Whata mess.

  2. Anonymous says:

    18 mos for causing death by dangerous driving

    6 years for attempted robbery (attempted murder charges not actioned)

    8 years for 12grams of cocaine



  3. Anonymous says:

    6 for armed robbery and 12 reduced to 8 for coke.

    These judges need to get their head examined or at least have a sit down and look at how the precendent have been set over the past.  Clearly lengthly the propoganda of the US drug war has gotten to these peoples heads.  Any drug "including alcohol" if made illegal will accompany crime.  Look at the roaring 20's with Al Capone and other gansters running amock and rum running "smuggling"  (even Cayman had a share in it) with the shootouts with Tommy Guns in the streets of Chicago and New York et al.

    Now since the US and other 1st world countries can't produce Cocaine due to climate it is illegal. However, ganga which grows over a wider range of conditions is now being distrubted in many US states and is slowly being legalized.  Part of this thing is economical…their will always be addicts or people with addictive trends. If fact, we all have vices from Coffee to Sex to Crack to Tobacco to Gambling to Alcohol to Ganja. 

    The key is to promote a society that is healthy and my theory is that people that are mentally healthy or have lower levels of stress tend to rely less on substance.  I once was a Ganja smoker when I lived in the USA for several years and had high levels of stress.  When I returned to Cayman after getting some education and mostly experience I was offered a nice job and the Ganja was not needed any longer and occassional drinks became my past time along with sex that comes along with the scene of young people with high disposable incomes.

    Now married with children and wifey without job for a prolong period and we are struggling I rely on tobacco may have used ganja but price and the fact that it might find me in greater troubles and out of a job so I stick to caffine and tobacco and hope better days soon come and look at the wrinkles on my face at the young age of 31 and say jessh I need botox.

    But what to do?!  9 years after return to Cayman from the USA I need to make another move this time I think it will be to the UK or Canada.  Once I am there I should be able to stop the tobacco if things are good and get the botox and be back out having a limited number of drinks on a friday night instead of counting bills and listening to kids saying "Daddy there is nothing to eat" and I just have to take another $50 out of savings for education to go to fosters a get 3 bags that will only last 3 days before I hear the same thing again.

    Oh well, I am glad that  I can swim and soon I will need to violate a few laws taking some lobster and conch.  But I am sure that is why they are here anyways plus if I get caught I will be glad to hear when the social enquiry come up so that the judge can point out to the social services that just because you make $57K a year it has little bearing if you have 4 mouths to feed  and the cost of everything is going sky high and you need cigarettes to keep you cool so that you don't beat your wife senseless and set her and the children on social service because you are trying your hardest and can't find your way without breaking the law and that is what women will make you do with their nagging.  Slim chance of any fine or jail time as the cost will be put back on the taxpayer to raise my children if you lock up the lobster boggey man or conch poncher.  It is time these enviromentalist realize the number one threat to the enviroment is poverty and instead of trying to police they could use the budget to help out those in need instead of buring gas trying to catch poachers probably trying to feed families or make some exception that struggling families be given a license to take a certain amount of marine wildlife per week from Marine parks to feed their families.

    So this is how people get addicted….by stress and the feeling of hopelessness.

    All is not bad I still am pushing aside enough money CI $150 per month to get out of Cayman and go to UK and live on council tax until  we get on our feet.  My wife can get free education and I can go back and get more schooling and everything is going to be better but it is just having no hope and trying no to strave or loose your home…  I think many of us can relate to this situation we have been in since 2008 Esp if you are in your ealry 30's and bought a home 5 years ago and now feel trapped by high house payments and fees and decreasing incomes and crime.

    No, and I am not going to use my CI $150 montly relocation savings  to buy groceries to please some bellyfull enviromentalist living in their beach front houses eating steak and call marine police to stop me and my family frorm eating.  I am better off in the sea than in your yard waiting for you to come home in your benz to give you a few slaps and show you what stress is minus your rolex watch

    Don't even get me started on Government….they hidding underground from the people now or in France.  If I buck them in Canada I will give them a pie in face and post it on CNS.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well said !! Same thing I say the day they catch me stealing seafood because I have to ( I am poverty stricken with a job) I will be glad to go in front of the judge. I refuse to let my children starve worrying about marine conservation and the rich sitting in their mansions looking down on me and wondering if they are going to call the police on me because i'm  "stealing seafood". From the dawn of our time Caymanians have fed their families from the sea and I intend to do just that as long as my kids need food!!

    • YOU are blaming says:

      A few things from what you wrote.  Not everyone is able to “use a drug” and substitute it like you have seemingly accomplished.  Most individuals use the various drug whether it is ganga, tobacco, alcohol and have become addicted.  You have classed sex in there so let’s call them addictions.  There are people in the world that can use these things and not harm the greater society.  There are a vast majority where this is not the case and they harm themselves and the greater society. 

      Good on you that you are saving to make better for yourself.  But you cannot blame others for your situation.  Your income for instance is dependant on your choice of occupation.  That is the way the world works.  Some occupations make more than others.  You are in an area of work where you may not be able to make millions of dollars in your current age bracket.  If you are in that line of work then it is just your luck of the draw.

      Also the question of not having enough to feed your family is difficult to say it is about the greater society.  You state you have 4 children.  Did you think about the financial obligations when you were planning to have these children?  Did you plan to have these children?  Planning would have required foresight into the long term implications of how to financially provide for a larger family. 

      Going to the UK or whichever other country is a good idea for you in your situation.  Especially if you need to educate your wife to be able to assist with the bills.  Everyone must make choices for themselves and their family.  The expats that come to Cayman made similar decisions and it is why they are here.  They are here for opportunity, to improve their quality of life.  People do not move to another country to live in worse conditions than where they were.  You went off island to improve yourself.  Make another move to do the same.  Come back when you are in a better situation or stay where it is better for you. 

      Your situation is your situation, while it may reflect the situation of a few others, it is certainly not the situation of the dominant public.  I am a young professional, of 28.  I make a little bit more than you, with a salary of $80,000 a year.  But I made different choices.  I chose to have one child due to the future financial obligations.  When my salary increases, I will consider at that point whether to have another child. 

      You mention promotion of society for lower levels of stress.  Stress management is something that can be learned without the use of external substances.  There are various techniques which I am surprised as you went away for education that you were taught these techniques.  I am assuming that you went to university, which generally has many free services on campus on stress management.  Therein problem, if you did not take up on the free service that is not societies fault.

      What I believe should happen is longer sentences in harsher conditions.  Not lessen sentences in Northward Hotel.

      Good on you that you are saving to make better for yourself.  But you cannot blame others for your situation. 

  4. justice says:

    Far too long even at 6 years, when druck drivers who KILL are getting 18 months

    • Anonymous says:

      Ridiculous. Obviously if the roads deaths had been intentional it would have been more like 20 years. This sentence was far too short. Ot should have been at least double that. You have got people sentenced for distributing cocaine at 8 years.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Margaret Ramsey-Hale had it correct in the first instance. Any drug related crime ought to have the maximum sentence possible. Reducing this sentence sends the wrong message .

    As for thearmed  robbery v drug crime senteces comment, I agree – 6 years is a slap on the wrist and not a deterrent to others pushed to consider the same foolishness.



    • Anon says:

      How about 12yrs upon conviction but we will halve it to 6yrs or less if you tell us the name of the big shot who sold it to you

  6. Anonymous says:

    ,,,and did anyone check with those who are hooked on this stuff – or those who homes & businesses are robbed to support the habit caused by these dealers.. and did anyone ask him "who are your  -big boy – suppliers??

  7. Slowpoke says:

    Study after study (40+ years now) has demonstrated that incarceration for this type of drug posession is a complete waste of time.  It does not work as a deterrent and does not reduce recidivism in terms of future drug use.

    But, it is very expensive, a cost which we can ill afford at the moment.

    It is time to leave morality behind and look at the science.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hmmm… 12 reduced to 8 years for dealing coke but only 6 for armed robbery…..