BELIZE CITY, Mon. July 3, 2017–A pastor who makes his living as a taxi driver operating out of the Novelo’s Bus Terminal, located on East Collet Canal, had a horrifying experience Friday evening when he accepted some passengers for what he thought were two routine runs in the city.
Instead of going home to his wife and family in Burrell Boom after work, he ended up spending the weekend in police lockdown and is now facing a serious criminal charge, which can be punished by three years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
This morning, Pastor Mark Humes, 45, and a 16-year-old youth appeared before Magistrate Carlon Mendoza to answer to a charge of drug trafficking.
They both pleaded not guilty to the charge of “possession with intent to supply to another for the purpose of drug trafficking”, for 5,029 grams of cannabis (approximately 10 pounds).
There was no objection to bail and Magistrate Mendoza released the two accused on a bail of $1,000 plus one surety in the same amount.
Attorney Herbert Panton represented Humes, while the minor was represented by attorney Oscar Selgado.
When he left court, Humes gave a brief interview to Amandala, explaining how he ended up with the drug trafficking charge.
Humes recounted what occurred on Friday around 3:30 p.m., saying, “I picked up a Hispanic young man, and a woman with two children. The woman and two children were going to the water taxi terminal by the Swing Bridge. I asked the young man if it was alright to take the woman and her children to the water taxi terminal before I dropped him off. The young man said he did not have a problem with that, as he was going to Pickstock Street.”
Humes said that two pieces of luggage were taken out of his taxi at the Caye Caulker Water Taxi Terminal.
“I didn’t know that the Hispanic young man’s luggage was taken out [at the terminal]. The video at the terminal is there to prove it. I left from the terminal and went to Pickstock. When I got to the location that he requested me to take him, his luggage was not in my vehicle. So I said no problem, it must have been taken out at the water taxi,” explained Humes.
He further related, “So I went back to the water taxi and he retrieved his luggage. But he was running back and forth at the water taxi, so that must have caused a suspicion. I was coming down New Road and we were intercepted at a check point [at the corner of Victoria Street and New Road] by PC Benguche and PC Pollard.”
“He had marijuana in his pocket. But I had nothing to do with that,” Humes said. When police searched the youth’s luggage, however, they found cannabis in his suitcase.
“During the lockdown at the police station, the minor gave police a caution statement admitting that the cannabis in the suitcase was his. And in court, he had initially pleaded guilty to the drug trafficking charge, but when his attorney came into the hearing, he change his guilty plea to not guilty,” Humes told Amandala.
“From Friday evening I was kept in custody until this morning,” Humes said.
The pastor’s family, supporters and friends spent a frantic weekend trying to get evidence from the terminal’s video system to bolster the pastor’s claim that the suitcase belonged to the youth.
They say that the video from the terminal showed that the youth’s luggage was collected out of his taxi, to be included with the woman’s luggage.
When he returned to the terminal to get the youth’s luggage, the video also shows the youth collecting his own luggage. It is inconceivable to them why Pastor Mark was charged and kept in lock-down over the weekend, and his taxi impounded when it was clear that the suitcase with drugs belonged to the 16-year-old youth.
What Pastor Mark’s ordeal, which isn’t over yet, shows is that apart from the physical danger associated with the job because of homicidal criminals, being a taxi operator is also dangerous because of the nonsensical law that the taxicab operator is responsible for what is in his passengers’ luggage.
They point out that it is impossible for a taxi operator to check all his passengers’ luggage to find out if it is “clean.” And what about the times when drugs are in the luggage but is difficult to find in a quick search because it had been cleverly hidden in places in which it can only be found if the suitcase is cut up, and therefore destroyed?