Posted: Tuesday, February 2, 2021. 8:21 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: Nine men, including several law enforcement officials, were arraigned yesterday in Orange Walk Town Magistrate’s Court in relation to Friday’s drug bust/plane landing in the Orange Walk District at Hill Bank.
They each pleaded not guilty before Senior Magistrate Merlene Moody to charges of possession of controlled drugs with intent to supply and were also charged with breaching curfew under COVID-19 quarantine regulations.
The men were accused specifically of holding two bales or 64 kilos of suspected cocaine in a vessel in the Hill Bank Lagoon where police found them. Among them are Tyrell Talbert, assigned to Police Special Patrol Unit; Constable Byron Clare, assigned to K-9 Unit; Lance Corporal Steve Rowland of the Belize Defence Force; one Dwight McFadzean; and the father of Constable Clare whose first name was not revealed.
Commissioner of Police Chester Williams confirmed that further searches of the Crooked Tree Lagoon in a mop-up exercise on Saturday netted three additional bales with 30 packs or bricks, for a total of 28 bales or 940 bricks. Each brick contains approximately 1 kilo or 2.2. pounds of suspected cocaine, which brings the total to around 2,068 pounds.
And while Police appear to have caught the group (some others, including suspected Mexican nationals, managed to get away) red-handed, attorneys Richard “Dickie” Bradley and Leeroy Banner stepped up to handle the men’s initial arraignment.
Bradley summarized his clients’ defense as “wrong place, wrong time.” What they were doing there, at that time, he would not say, except to suggest, “… If you hear (sic) that a plane has crashed, you wouldn’t want to try and see if you could rescue somebody or try and go to the scene of a crash? There was presumably, according to something, that there was a big ball of fire and the police could smell fuel burning and so on and so forth. There must have been two pilots. I don’t know if any of the nine persons from the rural area are pilots, but the pilots and I would imagine that a lot more drugs would be in a plane that size. Those were able to get away, but they were able to get some of the drugs.”
The Commissioner concurs, at least on the getting-away part: “…I can say that from the size of the plane that came in, which is a small twin-engine plane, they could not have gone with too much. We believe that we were able to find over seventy-five percent of what that plane could have brought in. So, whatever they took with them is not the bulk of what came in.”
The next step for Bradley is to seek bail before the Supreme Court as the Magistrate’s hands were tied by the Crime Control and Criminal Justice Act. Until that is accomplished, the men are remanded until April 6.
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