Cassie could go free
Judge stalls plea deal to consider innocence
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.