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Rastafari ‘High Priest’ ordered to pay $50,000 for ganja

Rastafari ‘High Priest’ ordered to pay $50,000 for ganja

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Ronald “Iman-I” Hypolite was given a reception befitting a king as close friends, relatives and well-wishers celebrated after he narrowly escaped a prison sentence at the Serious Offences Court on Wednesday.{{more}}

Hypolite pleaded guilty to possession of 105 pounds of marijuana and was fined $50,000 by Chief Magistrate Sonya Young on Wednesday, April 18, at the Serious Offences Court.

Hypolite was ordered to pay $5,000 forthwith, with the remainder in three months or three years imprisonment.

“Selassie-I, Selassie-I!” were the chants as Hypolite made his way out of the courtroom.

On March 31, 2012, at 2:20 p.m, corporal 569 Thomas was on mobile patrol with a party of Rapid Response Unit personnel and Questelles police at Questelles beach when he saw motor vehicle PP652 parked at the side of the public road.

Police officers went to the beach and saw two men standing there. As the police got closer, the men ran and were subsequently apprehended.

They were questioned about the jeep and Hypolite handed the keys over to the police. During a search of the vehicle, two large black plastic bags were found containing two nylon sacks with several taped packages containing marijuana.

When cautioned, Hypolite, 48, said: “Is ah man gimme a job.”

In his detailed mitigation, attorney Joseph Delves said he accepted the facts of what took place and noted that his client pleaded guilty at the first opportunity. He noted that his client accepted full responsibility for his actions and asked the court to impose a fine instead of a custodial sentence.

“He is married with six kids and has six grandchildren, your worship… Mr Hypolite is a devout rastafarian and high priest…he is also a pillar in the rasta community locally and internationally….,” Delves outlined.

Delves said the outpouring of affection for Iman-I is proof that he is well loved by his people and the community. “Look at the number of people who turned up here this morning. He is not an ordinary man; he is a remarkable Vincentian…He is a high priest at the Church of his Majesty Ivine order of the Nyabinghi and has represented rastafarians in Ethiopia and the rest of the Caribbean…,” Delves mitigated.

While on remand, Delves said his client had been fasting for two days, since he does not eat meat and the prison conditions were not conducive to him. He also indicated that Hypolite has serious health issues, including chronic anxiety, an irregular heartbeat, sinusitis, and that if he continued to be in such an environment, it could have fatal consequences.

“The state can’t be so interested in punishment so as to jail him at such risk. Where there are serious mitigating factors as I have outlined, we feel the appropriate sentence should be a fine…,” Delves added.

In response, Chief Magistrate Young said the aggravating factors were that he was found on beach in Questelles with nicely packaged and processed marijuana.

“If I were to imagine, I would say he was waiting to export the drug,” Young said.

The Chief Magistrate outlined five previous convictions for drug possession, but noted that she was only taking three of them into consideration, dating back from 2008.

“I consider the fact that he is a remarkable Vincentian as you said, and he was well aware if he was caught he would go to jail. From the time he took the job, he knew he had a daughter, and other medical problems. This is 105 pounds; I am not considering a suspended sentence. I’m considering a fine and sizeable amount, not a slap on the wrist… I can’t treat him any easier than I would for any other Vincentian just because he is a rasta. It is not a quantity I could say was for his personal use, or his own religious sacrament. The quantity is ridiculous…,” Young said.

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