In what many see as blatant hypocrisy, government corruption and a complete disregard for justice, a prominent businessman was given a slap on the wrist after being caught with over a pound of marijuana. Meanwhile, another man with no social or political connections, who was caught with only four ounces of the drug, was sent to jail for four years, the minimum mandatory sentence.
Magistrate Carolita Bethell slapped a $5,000 fine on Charles Major III, the owner of Charlie’s Place, a popular hangout for politicians and other socially connected citizens.
Mr Major was even given the opportunity to pay the fine in installments.
“I am outraged but not surprised,” said a young attorney who asked not to be identified due to the possibility of being “blacklisted” by the legal community if she dared to speak out against such practices.
Major 41, was arrested after police raided his business establishment and found one pound, four ounces of marijuana in his conference room, a storage room and even Mr Major’s pocket.
Bethell told Major he was lucky that Police Inspector Eercell Dorsett had accepted a reduced plea for simple drug possession, rather than charging Major as he should have with drug distribution, which under the new mandatory sentencing laws carries a minimum four year jail sentence.
Police admitted that the packaging of the drugs suggested they were intended for distribution.
Mr Major is in contact with minors on a regular basis as he is involved in sporting activites, including wrestling and boxing.
The monetary fine, a slap on the wrist to a prominent businessman, is in stark contrast with the punishment meted out to Andrew Davis, 35, who was sentenced to four years in jail for possession of six ounces of marijuana last December.
The Free National Movement (FNM) government in October reintroduced mandatory minimum sentences as part of its anti-crime legislation.
In sentencing Davis, Magistrate Bethell said she was obliged to follow the legislation.
Bahamians express frustration because the crime rate is out of control. Crime is rampant because so many poeple no longer have any respect for the rule of law. Who can blame them when such blatant hypocrisy results in two levels of justice… one level for those who are socially “connected” and another level for those who are not.
“This goes against everything the Police Commissioner is trying to do in combatting crime,” says a young disillusioned officer. “If I were the Commissioner, I would fire [Inspector] Dorsett,” he added.