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Cannabis trial jury hears of bags being taken into hotel late at night

The Supreme Court trial of a woman charged with smuggling cannabis into Bermuda continued yesterday, with the jury shown CCTV footage of her alleged co-conspirators entering and leaving her hotel in the US.

Mary Johnson, 53, of Smith’s, is accused of conspiring with others, between a date unknown and October 21 of last year, to import the drugs to the Island.

She was arrested on that date in Newark’s Liberty International Airport, after US agents discovered 49 kilos of packaged cannabis concealed in four items of false-bottomed luggage. Ms Johnson was taken into custody after boarding her flight back to Bermuda.

Yesterday, a jury heard evidence from Bermuda Customs Officer Dawnette Bell, who described Ms Johnson’s return to Bermuda under the escort of two US narcotics officers.

Special Constable Dena Robinson, a Bermuda Police officer who works with Bermuda customs, took the stand.

Prosecutor Larissa Burgess reviewed selections of CCTV footage from outside the Best Western Hotel in Newark, showing the hotel entrance during the early hours of the day Ms Johnson attempted to return to the Island.

Asked what she had noticed on the footage from 1.30am, Ms Robinson said: “I noticed that the bags were taken by two individuals into the hotel.”

Ms Robinson agreed that shortly later, she also saw another individual bringing a bag into the hotel where Ms Johnson was staying.

Footage from the morning later showed Ms Johnson setting out from the hotel with four bags.

Under questioning from Ms Johnson’s lawyer, Larry Mussenden, Ms Robinson was asked if the wrappings of the cannabis bricks found in Ms Johnson’s luggage had been tested for fingerprints.

“They were not,” she replied.

Asked if she knew that Ms Johnson had been asked by an acquaintance known as KJ to bring the bags back to Bermuda, Ms Robinson answered: “Yes.”

Ms Robinson also agreed that Ms Johnson said she had been offered money to bring the bags to the Island.

The court heard that Ms Johnson had been travelling to the US to visit an aunt who was ill.

Mr Mussenden asked: “She told you Pastor Ronny was sick also, and in hospital in New Jersey or New York.”

Ms Robinson agreed, but said that she had not verified Ms Johnson’s statements.

The jury then heard testimony from Detective Sergeant Hayden Small, and was shown part of a video interview with Ms Johnson taken at Somerset Police Station following her arrest in Bermuda.

On the tape, an emotional Ms Johnson could be heard telling Det Sgt Small that KJ “called while I was still at my auntie’s in New York”.

She described her feelings as “I just don’t know how to get out of it”.

The interview also included a description of being given $550 to buy her tickets, and $2,000 in cash just before leaving the Island.

She said she had been told “officers, baggage handlers, Customs” had been paid to deal with the bags once she arrived back in Bermuda.

Asked by Det Sgt Small if she had been suspicious, Ms Johnson could be heard saying, “I was, but I needed the money.”

Saying she had not known what the bags contained, she said: “All I knew was those bags had something f****ing illegal in them.”

The trial continues today.

Accused: Mary Johnson

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Published September 09, 2011 at 8:59 am (Updated September 09, 2011 at 8:59 am)

Cannabis trial jury hears of bags being taken into hotel late at night

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