A nurse who pleaded guilty to possessing 60kg of cocaine with intent to supply will be sentenced at the Serious Offences Court in Kingstown today.
Lucresha Nanton, 35, of Owia, appeared at the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court on Monday January, 30, before chief magistrate, Rechanne Browne where she was to be tried for the charge of having the cocaine in her possession with the intent to traffic it.
However, after the facts were read, prosecutor Station Sergeant Renrick Cato withdrew the charge of possessing the cocaine with intent to trafficking the controlled drug.
Nanton had pleaded guilty last Friday, January 27, to the charge that, on January 22, 2022, at Owia, she had in her possession a controlled drug, to wit, 59,039 grammes of cocaine with the intent to supply to another.
On Monday, at the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court, the facts were presented by the prosecution.
The court heard that on Saturday, January 22, 2022, acting on information received, police officers from the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) visited the defendant’s home for the purpose of conducting a search in relation to controlled drugs at her home and at the Owia Clinic where she is the nurse in charge. A search warrant was issued and Nanton consented to both searches.
She was asked if she had anything illegal to declare and she said no. Nothing was found after the searches were conducted and as a result, the officers left Owia. On their way back down, the police received certain information and they went back to the Owia clinic.
The defendant consented to another search. The nurses quarters were opened and Corporal 615 Williams observed that there was a room inside the quarters that was locked. Williams asked the defendant for the key and she said she did not have it.
The officers used force to open the door and they saw a brown barrel with a white cover in the room. It was observed that medical supplies were on the top of the barrel, and when the supplies were being removed, Nanton, in the presence of the officers, said “Officer me want talk to me lawyer.”
The search continued and a black travelling bag and three large, black garbage bags containing several black rectangular taped packages with transparent plastic around them were discovered.
Corporal Williams observed that the packages had sand on them. They were opened in the presence of the defendant and a whitish substance resembling that of cocaine was discovered.
Nanton was cautioned and she said, “Officer them is not mines.” The officers counted 54 packages, and the nurse was arrested on suspicion of possession of a controlled drug.
Other persons were taken into custody to assist with the investigations but they were subsequently discharged.
On January 23, 2022, the defendant was taken to the narcotics base where the drugs were weighed in her presence and it amounted to 59,939 grammes (approximately 132.3 pounds).
The next day, on January 24, 2022, the defendant did an electronic interview and afterwards, she told the police that she would give a true version of the incident in writing. She was arrested on April 19, 2022 and charged with the offences of possession of controlled drugs and drug trafficking.
“She was the person in charge of the clinic at the time. She also indicated that she had knowledge of the barrel and its contents at the clinic,” the prosecutor narrated.
During plea mitigation, lawyer for the defendant, Ronald “Ronnie” Marks told the court that Nanton attended the Owia Primary School then the St Joseph’s Convent, Kingstown. He said after that, she went into training as a nurse, and when she graduated in 2009 she was immediately awarded a contract to be a nurse in Trinidad.
Six years ago, Nanton was diagnosed with a medical condition and she did not renew her contract but instead, returned home to start a family.
Marks said prior to this, the nurse had never been in trouble of any kind.
“She is here today before you as a result of a very bad decision made on her part,” the defence attorney said.
“Without going into too much detail, she was manipulated by a close family member. She at no time knew what it was. However, in the circumstances she should have suspected.”
Marks told the court that it was the first time Nanton was seeing cocaine in her life and that she “allowed herself to be manipulated and wound up making one of the worst decisions of her life.”
He noted that Nanton acted through “coercion or naivety, had no influence at all, and had very little knowledge if any at all of the understanding of the scale of the operation”.
He asked the court to take into consideration Nanton’s full cooperation, her clean criminal record, and her guilty plea. He added, “We ask that the court also take into consideration the medical condition and, in particular, the very last line, where the doctor stresses that it is of the utmost importance that she stays in a stress free environment.”
He also asked the court if minded, to impose a suspended sentence if the court imposes a custodial sentence. He said this would reflect the mitigating circumstance and the fact that she was “manipulated.”
Prosecutor, Renrick Cato during his submissions told the court that the defendant’s request of wanting to speak to her lawyer after the room was opened caught his attention. “That was striking to me,” he said.
He also noted that since the police were acting on information received, he found that to be important as well.
Cato further asked the court to be mindful of the street value placed on the cocaine, $1.6 million.
He said that the defendant pleaded guilty and the court can impose a fine no more than $500,000, and a sentence up to seven years.
“Cocaine will always be cocaine. Cocaine is not grown in SVG and we are well aware of how it is destroying our youth,” Cato said.
He went on to highlight that he was served with a copy of a medical report from the doctor and said, “I am not of the view that based on the circumstances surrounding this matter that a suspended sentence is applicable.”
Cato said that this offence is of public interest.
“It is not the duty of the court to please the public, but we must take note of the public interest at hand as it relates to this matter,” he said.
Cato was also of the opinion that Nanton’s role in the offence was significant and placed it into category one, noting that the scale of operations was motivated by financial influence.
Counsel, Marks disagreed with the prosecutor and said that Cato was “speculating.”
He added…”So your honour, if we are going to move to significant role, where is the motivation of financial advantage?” He added that there is no other evidence.
The prosecutor in response said “when it comes to these kinds of offences, I try my best not to call names and I will keep on doing it because I am aware. But counsel raised it as to why I said what I said. Here comes a nurse in charge of a clinic and during the night these bags arrive at the clinic for store keeping.”
“…If it was regular medical supplies, why were they not placed where they usually be? They were placed in a specific room in the nurse’s quarters, and the room is locked. And the persons who brought them are well known by the defendant…”, the prosecutor pointed out.
“Is it for free?” he asked, highlighting that “it is like putting my work on the whole at risk for free, for 54 kilos of cocaine.”
Cato also repeated the point where he said Nanton wanted to speak to her lawyer.
“…If it was medical supplies, why you want to talk to your lawyer? You are in charge of the clinic but you don’t know where that particularly key is. It is for that reason why I asked to place it in significant and not lesser role,” he said.
The chief magistrate noted that the offences are very serious.
“Cocaine is wretched and destroying the young and not so young… The court is minded to make sure and consider all that was said by both defence and prosecution to come up with the appropriate sentence in this matter,” Browne said.
She said that the facts and the quantity of the substance should not be taken lightly and the court has to send the appropriate message when sentencing defendants.
The exhibits were not presented at the hearing for security reasons. However, the magistrate said the court would like to see the exhibits and get an appreciation of the packaging and the quantum. As a result, the court was scheduled to visit the narcotics base in the presence of the defendant, and further direction will be given.
Nanton’s bail continued as she awaited the outcome of her offence.
As she left the Georgetown Magistrate’s Court, she shielded her face from photographers with an umbrella.