Accused Australian drug smuggler Cassie Sainsbury has had her plea deal formally knocked back in a Colombian court, meaning she could face up to 30 behind bars if she’s found guilty at trial.
Sainsbury’s defence had attempted to reach a compromise with prosecutors, which would have seen her provide identities of the men responsible for allegedly providing the 5.8kg of cocaine found stashed in her luggage in April.
That deal also hinged on Sainsbury admitting responsibility for carrying the drugs. If successful, that arrangement would have seen the 22-year-old sentenced to six years in Colombian prison, with the possibility of a reduced sentence pending on her behaviour and willingness to study Spanish.
However, her previous plea bargain hearing was complicated by Sainsbury’s new claim that cartel-associated individuals had threatened her partner and family members if she didn’t transport the drugs. She also alleged being threatened at gunpoint to smuggle the cocaine.
The plea deal was thrown out by judge Sergio Leon, amid speculation as to why Sainsbury hadn’t mentioned those threats earlier in her legal proceedings. Her case is now set to go to trial, where her defence team will move ahead with Sainsbury’s version of events.
Before today’s hearing, her lawyer Orlando Herrán said proving her claims would be difficult, as “we only have Cassandra’s word about the threat. Cassandra doesn’t have the personal resources for a private investigator to prove the threat.”
Under Colombian law, Sainsbury faces a minimum sentence of 21 years if found guilty.
We’ll keep you posted on this one.