Bahamian Judges Say ‘Yes’ To Drugs?
The dysfunctional Bahamas legal system was highlighted again when a man charged with selling drugs was released because he told judges that he was only selling the cocaine to pay his medical bills.
Anthony Armbrister, 46, who had been convicted on drug charges twice in the past, was originally sentenced in November, 2011, to the “mandatory” four-year jail term for the possesion of cocaine with the intent to sell. He admitted that his intention was to sell the drugs.
Armbrister and Andrew Davis, who was also convicted for possession of dangerous drugs with intent to supply, were the first convicts to be sentenced under the new mandatory four-year prison sentence for such convictions.
Later, when his crafty lawyer appealed the case, Mr Armbrister suddenly remembered that he was selling the drugs to pay for his medical expenses.
On May 4 the Court of Appeal quashed their sentences.
Justices Anita Allen, Christopher Blackman, and Abdulai Conteh all agreed that the minimum four year sentence handed to Armbrister and Davis, though lawful, were excessive due to the amount of drugs involved. Apparently, the judges felt that selling 51 grams of cocaine (the amount Armbrister was caught with) was not a big deal.
The Appeal Court judges sent the case back to the Magistrates Court where, on instructions from the Court of Appeal, Deputy Chief Magistrate Carolita Bethell ruled that Armbrister would serve eight months in prison, instead of the “mandatory” minimum of four years.
Guess it is not really “mandatory” if you know the right people.
However, because eight months in prison is equal to six months of a calendar year, and because Armbrister has already served almost 6 months while on remand, he was released with a condition that he does not commit an offence within two years, or he would face going to jail for a year.
Last year, Armbrister was diagnosed with penile cancer and was to undergo surgery at Princess Margaret Hospital. Although he used the cost of that surgery as his excuse for selling drugs, it turns out that when he had the opportunity to have the surgery, he never did. He told the magistrate that he didn’t get the surgery because there were no hospital beds available at the time. That claim was never confirmed.
Medical documents submitted to the court yesterday indicated that his surgery, tests and treatment all amounted to $6,400. A payment plan of $50 per week was set up for Mr Armbrister to pay off the debt. It is not clear why Armbrister felt the need to sell drugs to pay his medical bills when he had already made arrangements for a very affordable payment plan.
To further show how ridiculous this situation is, it was revealed in court that the Treasury would have covered all expenses for his tests and medical treatment during his time behind bars.
But he refused that treatment and apprently wants to sell drugs to pay his medical bills instead.
That judges would believe such nonsense indicates that they are either really naive or completely incompetent. Many Bahamians feel that judges of this caliber are a danger to society and greatly contribute to the rising crime levels in The Bahamas.
Meanwhile, Andrew Davis, facing similar charges, also received a lesser sentence after his attorney, Murrio Ducille submitted that the 35-year-old should be discharged and was “over-punished”.
In December, Davis pleaded guilty to possessing six ounces of marijuana valued at $300. He admitted that he was supplying it to his friends.
He was resentenced to a year in prison. However, having served a significant fraction of the sentence while on remand, the magistrate noted that Davis would be released as early as July 8, “on good behaviour.”
Armbrister’s defence attorney, Jomo Campbell said the rulings set a precedent for a number of convicts who believed their sentences were not proportionate to the amount of drugs for which they were convicted.
“As you would know, the mandatory minimum is not only related to drug offences but firearm offences as well. So there are quite a number of persons who are eagerly awaiting today’s decision.”
As crime spiraled out of control in The Bahamas last year, Bahamian judges denied that they were responsible for the state of affairs. Tired of the ridiculously light sentences that judges were handing out for serious crimes, the FNM government passed legislation introducing mandatory sentences for specific crimes.
These “mandatory” sentences have been made irrelevant by irresponsible judges lacking common sense.
This reminds us of the time, a few years ago, when a Bahamian judge acquitted a man who had been charged with murder, because the man claimed he was drunk at the time he raped the woman and bashed her head in.
And people wonder why crime in The Bahamas is spiraling out of control.corruption, courts, crime, drugs, incompetence, judges