A woman who pleaded guilty to one count of possession of a controlled drug – 10 grams of marijuana, on Friday, and who was remanded to the Belize Central Prison until today, Tuesday, appeared before Magistrate Hettie Mae Stewart for sentencing.
Quinn Melinda Arnold, 25, an unemployed resident of 1 Conch Shell Bay, rose from her seat in the courtroom, as Magistrate Stewart indicated that she was ready to pass sentence on her.
Stewart asked her what she had to say for herself by way of a mitigation plea before she (Stewart) passed a sentence on her.
Arnold, whose head was hung low, lifted her head and looked at the Magistrate, before uttering a one-sentence mitigation plea: “I hope that you be lenient; it is my first offense.”
Stewart asked her if she had anything else to say.
Arnold replied, “That’s all I have to say.”
The Magistrate began the sentencing: “Taking into consideration what you just said, I will not send you to prison today; I will impose a fine.”
“I fine you $1,000 plus $5 cost of court. You have to pay $300 now. The balance is to be paid by August 22; in default, you will spend six months in prison,” Stewart said.
Arnold was led away by the court orderly and returned to the holding area. She was to remain in custody until the fine was paid.
Before midday, however, Arnold’s $300 was paid and she was freed from the court’s custody, escorted by her mother and by a man who paid the court’s cashier, and who told Amandala that he was not related to Arnold.
As she departed from the court area, Arnold’s hands covered her face in an effort to avoid further snapshots being taken of her by court reporters.
Arnold’s entanglement with the criminal justice system began when she went to visit someone at the Belize Central Prison, on Thursday, July 10. Her seemingly innocuous visit, however, was marred when a prison guard spotted some “fonto leaves” in her purse.
The discovery of the fonto leaves appeared to have triggered nervousness in Arnold, who, according to the prison’s CEO Earl Jones, began acting suspiciously.
The prison security officer suggested to Arnold that a complete search of her person be done.
Jones told Amandala on Monday that Arnold did not object to the suggestion of a more complete search.
But before the search could be done on her, Arnold handed over 10 grams of marijuana that she had stashed in a plastic bag inside her vagina and covered with a feminine pad.
Arnold joins an ever growing number of young women whose wily ways of attempting to smuggle marijuana inside the prison backfired, and resulted in criminal charges for drug possession and drug trafficking, highlighting an ever-present security challenge for the prison’s stepped-up security apparatus.