Cassandra Sainsbury’s six-year plea deal rejected

By @chelean on
Cassandra Sainsbury
Cassandra Sainsbury, an Australian, is seen in handcuffs after she was arrested at the international airport in Bogota, Colombia, April 12, 2017. Picture Taken April 12, 2017. Colombian Police/Handout via Reuters

Cassie Sainsbury’s plea deal with prosecutors has been rejected by a Colombian judge. The accused Australian drug mule must now face a full trial, which could land her up to 30 years in prison.

The plea deal would have seen her serving a reduced six-year term. However, on Wednesday afternoon local time, Judge Sergio Leon rejected the plea because the law requires Sainsbury to admit first that she willingly attempted to smuggle drugs out of the country. Sainsbury still maintains that she only agreed to smuggle the 5.8 kg of cocaine found in her suitcase because the drug cartel threatened her family’s lives.

The prosecution were given the opportunity to appeal the decision, which they opted not to. They now have up to 120 days to present evidence proving the 22-year-old former physical trainer intended to do the crime in exchange for money.

Sainsbury told the judge that she needed $10,000 and so she contacted a man named Nathan through a website in Hong Kong. She believed that she was just being asked to carry sensitive documents. However, she was later forced to carry drugs and was allegedly threatened at gunpoint.

Sainsbury’s Bogota lawyer, Orlando Herran, said she ignored the advice of both her legal team and her family to accept the six-year deal. She was apparently so concerned about her reputation and how people in Australia would think of her, reports.

In the hearing, the judge said the prosecution found little to support Sainsbury’s story. He also said that there had been no evidence that could be extracted from her phone at the time of the arrest because Colombian authorities did not have the technology to do so. The prosecution also did not examine her email correspondence or the source of the money she had received from the financial services company Western Union.

Herran admitted that the team also do not have anything to go on. “As the defence, we don’t have the resources of the prosecution,” he told Fairfax outside the court. “At the moment, we only have Cassandra’s words about the threat. Cassandra doesn’t have the personal resources for a private investigator to prove the threat.”

The Adelaide native, who was supported by her mother, Lisa Evans, and fiancé, Scott Broadbridge, in court, has already applied for Australian taxpayer funding for her legal costs.

Read more:
Cassandra Sainsbury reportedly reaches plea bargain with Bogota prosecutors
Prosecutors: Cassie Sainsbury must name drug cartel or face 30 years prison