Cassie could go free

Judge stalls plea deal to con­sider in­no­cence

Townsville Bulletin - - NATION -

CO­CAINE Cassie has pos­si­bly en­joyed a re­mark­able turn in for­tune, af­ter her dra­matic first day in court saw a Bo­gota judge re­ject a six- year plea bar­gain be­tween her le­gal team and pros­e­cu­tors.

In­stead of rub­ber- stamp­ing what looked like a great deal for Cas­san­dra Sains­bury – pos­si­ble freedom in three years as op­posed to the 30year max­i­mum she faced – Se­nior Judge Ser­gio Leon or­dered fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions and in­di­cated she could be in­no­cent.

Sains­bury, 22, was ar­rested on April 12 as she tried to leave Bo­gota In­ter­na­tional Air­port with 5.9kg of co­caine in her green suit­case.

Her ex­pla­na­tion for the nar­cotics has changed sev­eral times, from first be­ing un­aware they were dis­guised in packs of head­phones to yes­ter­day say­ing she thought she was car­ry­ing pa­per­work un­til just be­fore her flight, when she agreed to try to smug­gle the co­caine in order to pro­tect her fam­ily from a drug car­tel threat­en­ing them.

Yes­ter­day in court she ac­cepted re­spon­si­bil­ity for the drugs and a prose­cu­tor with Colom­bia’s at­tor­ney- gen­eral agreed to the 72month sen­tence put for­ward by her lawyer Or­lando Her­ran.

The plea deal her le­gal team was try­ing for was struck un­der ar­ti­cle 56 of the Colombian Crim­i­nal Code deal­ing with de­fen­dants in “cir­cum­stances of marginal­ity, ig­no­rance and extreme poverty”.

But when Judge Leon started di­rectly ques­tion­ing Sains­bury about her un­der­stand­ing of the deal and her part in the crime, he ap­peared shocked at her avowed in­no­cence.

“I didn’t want to take a pack­age with me. I was told my fam­ily and part­ner would be killed,” Sains­bury told the judge.

When asked why she had ac­cepted a guilty plea, Sains­bury and her lawyer ex­plained they had no ev­i­dence to back up her claim.

“I ac­cepted the charges and agreed to take a plea agree­ment be­cause the one thing I can­not take away from the ev­i­dence is the drug was in my suit­case and I was car­ry­ing it ... I have to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for that,” she ex­plained.

Judge Leon said her claims war­ranted more in­ves­ti­ga­tion into her pos­si­ble in­no­cence and said he would thor­oughly re­view the case.

“I have found a very com­plex de­vel­op­ment with this plea bar­gain,” he said, ad­journ­ing the mat­ter to Au­gust 9.

GOOD NEWS: Cas­san­dra Sains­bury ar­rives for her court hear­ing in Bo­gota, Colom­bia.

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