NA­TION Judge throws out Cassie’s plea deal

Townsville Bulletin - - NATION - SARAH BLAKE IN BO­GOTA

“IF you have a gun to your ur head, are you guilty or are e you in­no­cent?”

This ques­tion from Cassie e Sains­bury’s Bo­gota judge e sums up her up­com­ing chal- lenge, af­ter her plea deal wass sen­sa­tion­ally re­jected yester- day be­cause she re­fused too take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for try­ing to smug­gle drugs out off Colom­bia.

The 22- year- old now faces decades in jail if she can’t prove her claims that thugs threat­ened to kill her fam­ily un­less she agreed to carry 5.9kg of co­caine to Lon­don on April 12.

Sains­bury de­fied le­gal ad­vice and the urg­ings of her fam­ily to scut­tle the plea ar­range­ment, which was ham­mered out be­tween her lawyers and the Bo­gota At­tor­ney- Gen­eral’s of­fice, for her to serve just six years jail. With good be­hav­iour, she could have been out in half that time.

Se­nior Judge Ser­gio Leon yes­ter­day told Bo­gota Spe­cial Court 2, which deals with nar­cotics cases and po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers, that Sains­bury’s claims meant he could not agree to the plea deal be­cause her ac­cept­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity was cen­tral to the ar­range­ment.

At his an­nounce­ment, Sains­bury’s mother Lisa Evans lurched for­ward in her seat in tears. Ms Evans and Sains­bury’s fi­ance Scott Broad­bridge had pleaded with her to re­tract her claims of in­no­cence.

“I ad­vised her the best op­tion was to plead guilty full stop but she was stand­ing by her claims,” lawyer Or­lando Her­ran said out­side court.

For some­one who has changed her story so many times – from drug- packed head­phones as wed­ding gifts, to a doc­u­ment run to South Amer­ica through Los An­ge­les and a re­search trip on be­half of a fam­ily clean­ing com­pany that never ex­isted – it ap­pears a huge gam­ble for Sains­bury to pin her free­dom on be­ing able to prove her claims of co­er­cion. If found guilty, she faces be­tween 21 and 30 years in jail.

“It’s high risk, but the ben­e­fit would be that she might be de­clared in­no­cent and set free,” Her­ran said.

Judge Leon echoed this sen­ti­ment, say­ing af­ter his rul­ing that if Sains­bury and her le­gal team man­age to prove the threat, she could be sent home, adding: “It is pos­si­ble that she is in­no­cent.”

In a lengthy pre­am­ble ahead of his rul­ing yes­ter­day, Judge Leon shed new light on Sains­bury’s ar­rest and lev­elled strong crit­i­cism at a “de­fi­cient” in­ves­ti­ga­tion by pros­e­cu­tors.

Sains­bury told in­ves­ti­ga­tors she re­ceived a $ 10,000 money trans­fer from Western Union from a man named Nathan in Hong Kong for a trip to Bo­gota to de­liver doc­u­ments. Once she was in Colom­bia she said she had sec­ond thoughts about car­ry­ing doc­u­ments for Nathan’s friend An­gelo to Lon­don, and that he re­sponded by send­ing her pho­tos on the What­sApp mes­sag­ing ser­vice of her fam­ily and warn­ing they would be killed. She said he also threat­ened her with a gun and said she was un­der “con­stant sur­veil­lance”, so in fright, she agreed to try to move what turned out to be the drugs.

Judge Leon said pros­e­cu­tors had not checked her emails, What­sApp mes­sages or Western Union to try to sup­port or dis­prove her claims. They had also not tried to find the mys­te­ri­ous An­gelo, who was cap­tured on CCTV at the Ho­tel In­ter­bo­gota where she stayed from April 3 to 12 and where she said she was threat­ened.

Sains­bury is due in court within the next 90 days.

HAND­CUFFED: Ac­cused drug smug­gler Cas­san­draCas­sand Sains­bury ar­rives at court. INSETS: ( from top) Sains­bury lis­tens to the judge’s rul­ing; Sains­bury’s boyfriend Scott Broad­bridge; Sains­bury talks to her mother Lisa Evans in court. Pic­tures: NATHAN ED­WARD

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.