TWO contractors whom police dubbed reputed gang leaders appeared in the Port of Spain magistrates court yesterday, charged with being in possession of six and ten grammes of marijuana.
One of the men – Kenneth “Spanish” Rodriguez, 45, a contractor and owner of a security firm – pleaded guilty to being in possession of six grammes of marijuana, which he said he used for medicinal purposes, and was fined $2,000.
Acting deputy chief magistrate Cherril-Anne Antoine gave Rodriguez two days to pay. In default, he will serve three months’ imprisonment.
The second “reputed gang leader,” Ancil “Chemist” Villafana, 38, a contractor and father of seven, was charged with being in possession of 10.2 grammes of marijuana. He pleaded not guilty and was granted $25,000 bail or a $10,000 cash alternative.
They were two of five east Port of Spain businessmen, alleged to be gang leaders, who were arrested during a 72-hour Operation Strike Back exercise in the Port of Spain district, led by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, last week. In all, 258 people were arrested during the exercise, which also saw Griffith raising the police alert level to “red” because of an upsurge in criminal activity in the east Port of Spain district.
Rodriguez, who wore a cream-coloured long-sleeved shirt with the logo RICO Development Company Ltd, appeared first, at 10.25 am.
The charge that, on February 15, he was in possession of marijuana, was read out to him.
The facts were then read out by one of the police prosecutors. According to police, a warrant was executed on Rodriguez’s home for arms and ammunition. None of the latter were found, but a transparent plastic bag with the drugs was found in the pocket of a pair of short pants in a clothes basket.
Rodriguez, who accepted the facts, told police, “Boy, this mine. All I does do is smoke weed.”
He was taken to the Besson Street police station, where he was charged. His attorney Wayne Sturge said his client admitted to his previous convictions for simple possession of marijuana, and it would serve no useful purpose to impose anything other than a fine. Sturge said Rodriguez used the drug for medicinal purposes.
He also asked the magistrate to consider that next year was an election year and that the Attorney General has recently embarked on a series of consultations on the decriminalisation of marijuana, but was told she could not consider anything political and that the position on possession of the drug had not yet changed.
Rodriguez was fined and given two days to pay and the marijuana was ordered destroyed.
Ten minutes later, Villafana appeared and the charge that on February 13, he had in his possession 10.2 grammes of marijuana was read to him.
He pleaded not guilty and his attorney Ian Brooks asked for disclosure of the Besson Street police station’s station diary on the day Villafana was arrested since, he said, the summary of facts was silent on the fact that two other people were present when his client was arrested and that two sums of money – $63,800 and US$2,140 – were seized by police.
Brooks said the search warrant, which was given to him, spoke of the two people who were present, adding, “Something has to be wrong. The summary is at variance with the search warrant.”
The prosecutor, who did not object to bail, said the State had no issue with disclosing the station diary extract and added that the money was now in the possession of the Financial Investigations Bureau.
Villafana was granted $25,000 bail or the cash alternative of $10,000.
Of the five alleged gang leaders arrested last week, Villafana was the only one not released over the weekend after lawyers filed writs of habeas corpus calling on the police to justify their detention.
A warrant for drug possession was executed on him when the judge’s writ was served on the commissioner, and the warrant stated he was not to be granted bail.