‘Cocaine Cassie’ gets six years’ jail after court takes deal
CASSANDRA Sainsbury has been sentenced to six years in jail after a Colombian judge accepted a plea deal.
It means the 22-year-old South Australian could actually be out of prison in two-and-a-half years if she gets time for good behaviour.
Sainsbury had faced up to 30 years in Bogota's El Buen Pastor prison for trying to smuggle almost 6kg of cocaine on April 12.
Sainsbury has offered several versions of how she came to be carrying the drugs, but a judge yesterday accepted her claim she had been threatened into commiting the crime.
She had said a mystery man named Angelo tricked her after she agreed to transport documents from Bogota to London, instead packing drugs into her suitcase and threatening her family.
Sainsbury's lawyer Orlando Herran spoke to media shortly after the hearing ended and because the court was closed to media, his is the only available version of events.
He said Sainsbury was "lucky" to receive such a short sentence for a "large" amount of drugs, which he said was due to the fact the judge had accepted she was a "victim" and a "small fish".
"The judge manifestly felt that people who undergo this process are victims," Mr Herran said in Spanish outside court. "Victims of deceit, victims of their own socio-economic conditions and victims of ignorance regarding Colombian law."
"Her story should serve as a warning, an example to other people considering whether to do these things," he said. "The Colombian judicial system is well structured and it takes into account people's particular circumstances. The fact that she was threatened was an important consideration in the plea deal."
Mr Herran said Sainsbury was threatened to respect the deal she had made to arrive at the airport with the drugs.
"The investigation has uncovered a larger operation and investigators suspect she was used as bait to distract the authorities whilst other people smuggled drugs out undetected."
He said she could have received an even shorter sentence if she had asked police for help, and that the judge had "sanctioned" her for not doing so.
"She isn't a criminal. She made a mistake, she allowed herself to be tricked and she didn't use the means at her disposal by not asking authorities for help," he said.
Mr Herran said Sainsbury was also ordered to pay a fine of almost $US90,000 ($130,000) - equal to 72 months of the Colombian minimum wage - which he was attempting to have reduced because she couldn't pay it.
This sentence takes into account the seven months Sainsbury has already served, so she could return to Australia by April 2020.
Herran said the sentence could also be commuted into home-based parole in Colombia. In order for this to happen she would need to establish a base in Bogota.
In the Colombian jail system good behaviour could be termed as teaching English classes such as Sainsbury has been doing in the jail.
Sainsbury was supported in court by her mother, Lisa Evans.
She was met by a huge media pack awaiting her arrival.