A Hollymount man who was arrested while transporting €65,000 worth of cocaine into Mayo was sentenced to six years imprisonment at last week’s sitting of Castlebar Circuit Court.
James O’Donnell of Waterford House, Hollymount pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled drug for sale and supply, a charge which carries a minimum ten year sentence. He was stopped at a random checkpoint along the N5 at Ballyglass East, Charlestown on January 29, 2010 at 11.40pm.
The driver was known to the garda on duty and he became suspicious when he was given a false name and address. He carried out a search of the car and found two packages under a cushion on the driver’s seat, which contained 932grammes of cocaine with a street value of €65,261.
Mr McDonnell (45) said he was transporting the cocaine for drug dealers in Dublin after he ran into debt of €5,500 from his own use of cannabis and cocaine. However, Detective Sergeant Jim Cadden who investigated the case explained that from enquiries made at the time he did not believe there was truth in his explanation.
When interviewed by gardaí, Mr O’Donnell said the packages were left in the car when he went to Dublin and while he didn’t know what it was, he had suspicions it was cocaine.
“I was in two minds to throw it out [of the car] but I realised I would be in more trouble and I kept it in the car,” he told gardaí and explained he would receive €1,500 when he got to Mayo.
Mr O’Donnell was initially remanded on bail but it was revoked in December 2010 and he has been in custody ever since. He told the court that he had lived with his elderly mother and uncle and he explained both were invalids.
He explained that after his father died he started drinking heavily and started to use cannabis and cocaine and ran into debt. He said he was transporting the drugs because it was put to him that if he did not pay off his debts some of his family would get hurt.
When asked why he did not tell this to the gardaí when he was arrested, he said he was embarrassed. He has 16 previous convictions, the majority of which were for road traffic and public order issues and only one previous drug conviction.
Mr John Flannery SC for the defendant said his client has been engaging in NA and AA while in prison and was ‘doing well’.
Martina O’Donnell, sister of the accused man told the court her brother cared for his mother and uncle when he lived at home but both had been moved into sheltered housing. She said her mother suffered from a heart attack which she said was brought on by the stress on what happened to her son.
She told Judge Tony Hunt that she was afraid her brother would not see his mother again if sentence to jail and added that when he sentences him, he will also sentence her mother.
Judge Hunt said that because of Mr O’Donnell’s early plea and the prospect of rehabilitation he would not impose the ten year sentence. He sentenced him to six years imprisonment but suspended the final two years for a period of five years and also ordered him to come under the supervision of the probation service for 12 months following release.