By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A MAN convicted and sentenced for firearm possession a year ago reappeared in Magistrate’s Court at the direction of a Supreme Court judge to receive a lesser sentence than the mandatory minimum of four years established in late 2011.
Anthony Smith, 31, of Elizabeth Estates, was fined $5,000 and re-sentenced to 18 months in prison by Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt, upon the direction of Supreme Court judge Senior Justice Jon Isaacs, who said she had the right to issue a lesser sentence.
In January 2012, Smith pleaded guilty to firearm, ammunition and drug possession with the intent to supply, and was given the mandatory minimum of four years, despite having no previous criminal history.
In January of this year, Smith and his attorney, Jomo Campbell, challenged the constitutionality of the new law, which removed a magistrate’s discretion in sentencing.
Though the attorney was unsuccessful in arguing that the mandatory minimum was unconstitutional, Mr Campbell was able to have the judge restore the magistrate’s discretion after providing the senior judge with a May 2012 ruling by the Court of Appeal in the case of Anthony Armbrister and Andrew Davis.
Armbrister and Davis were the first convicts to appeal the new mandatory four-year prison sentence for drug possession with intent to supply.
Armbrister, a penile cancer patient, was one of the first persons to receive the new, longer minimum sentence after the law was amended on November 4, 2011.
He pleaded guilty a week later to having 51 grams of cocaine with an estimated street value of $2,000.
He told Magistrate Bethell that the drugs were to be sold to pay his medical bills.
The magistrate said her hands were tied on the question of sentencing because of the new law.
In December, Davis pleaded guilty to possessing six ounces of marijuana valued at $300. He first claimed he was going to smoke it with his friends, but then admitted that he was supplying it to a friend.
On March 5, attorneys for Armbrister and Davis told the appellate court justices that the sentences were “excessive and harsh”.
Both attorneys argued that the sentences were disproportionate considering the amount of drugs involved.
Davis’ attorney Murrio Ducille argued that the government’s new law did not entirely remove a magistrate’s discretion regarding the minimum sentence for the offence, as to do so would be unconstitutional.
He also said despite his client having two previous convictions, he should not be in prison and that a fine was more appropriate in the circumstances.
Campbell, Armbrister’s attorney, contended that his client was a man of good character, having only one previous conviction for simple drug possession in 2001.
Deputy director of public prosecution Franklyn Williams said despite the circumstances, the men pleaded guilty to a grave offence.
In the end, the appellate court squashed the sentences. But the justices did not say what they felt would be fitting sentences for the men and left it to the “sentencing court to determine what that is.”
On Wednesday, Magistrate Ferguson-Pratt used her discretion and sentenced Smith to 18 months for the charges and added a $5,000 fine.
Smith has already spent 15 months behind bars.