Eight cruise ship passengers avoid prison sentence in $100-M drug bust
The eight people who tried to smuggle over $100 million worth of cocaine out of Jamaica on board a cruise ship have dodged a prison sentence.
Instead, the seven Americans and one Jamaican who reside in the United States were fined a total of $9.4 million in the St Ann Parish Court today.
They will have to serve up to 12 months in prison if the fines are not paid.
The eight – Haley Lawrence; Kaley Hal; Yakine Jones; Jamari Kitchin; Troy Craig; Javonte Johnson; Takelia Hooks; and Tyshaena Rinson – pleaded guilty earlier this month to possession of and taking steps to export cocaine.
Charges of conspiracy and dealing in cocaine were withdrawn by prosecutors.
Johnson and Kitchin were held with nine and four pounds of cocaine, respectively. The others each had six pounds.
The fines range from a high of $1.5 million to a low of $850,000 for possession of cocaine. They were each fined $30,000 for taking steps to export the drug.
“We are indeed grateful that the judge took into account that they are young first-time offenders who still have an opportunity to make good of themselves,” Odane Marston, one of the attorneys for the eight, told The Gleaner following today's sentencing hearing.
“The public ought also to understand that these fines are significant sums that should serve as a deterrent to anyone considering doing the same thing.”
Donnovan Collins, the other attorney representing the group, said the presiding judge considered all the principles of sentencing and took into account the early guilty plea entered by his clients.
The eight disembarked a cruise ship in Ocho Rios, St Ann, after it arrived from Miami, Florida earlier this month, according to a police report.
Anomalies were detected in their luggage as they attempted to re-board the vessel for departure.- Livern Barrett
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