Drug smuggler Cassie Sainsbury could be released from jail in as little as six months after a Colombian judge described her as a “victim” and accepted her plea deal Thursday morning (AEST).
The 22-year-old was sentenced to six years jail, but her lawyer Orlando Herran said she could be released in just months if she fills certain criteria.
The Colombian judge described Sainsbury as a “victim” and a “small fish” who was coerced into smuggling drugs by a large criminal syndicate as he accepted her plea deal.
Mr Herran, was quoted by News Corp as saying his client’s sentence could be commuted to home-based parole in Colombia within six months if she set up a base in Bogota.
He also said he would appeal the fine of almost $A90,000 imposed by the court, saying the South Australian was not in a position to pay.
With good behaviour, Sainsbury could return to Australia as soon as 2020.
Cassie Sainsbury gets her 6 year plea approved. With time served she could be out in three years. pic.twitter.com/ZHwxB6Kq1M
— Mark Burrows (@MarkWBurrows) November 1, 2017
Media were banned from attending Thursday’s hearing, but Australian consular officials and her mother Lisa Evans were present throughout.
Sainsbury initially faced 30 years in jail after she was intercepted by authorities and arrested at El Dorado International Airport in April, where she was allegedly carrying 5.8 kilograms of cocaine hidden inside her suitcase.
The former gym owner, whose family claimed she was in Colombia on a working holiday, was preparing to board a flight to London on her way back to Australia when she was arrested.
Colombian police said the drugs were divided into 18 plastic bags and hidden inside boxes of headphones, which she claimed were bought as gifts for her bridal party guests.
Jorge Mendoza, Anti-Narcotic Police Ports and Airports director, said police were given a tip-off that Sainsbury may have been carrying drugs out of the country.
He estimated the drugs were worth about US$1 million (A$1.3 million).
Sainsbury last appeared in court in August after sensationally claiming she was forced to carry the drugs in the face of death threats at an earlier sentencing hearing.
Judge Sergio Leon told the court at the time that in light of Ms Sainsbury’s testimony, he could not approve a six-year plea deal reached with prosecutors.
Under Colombian law, Sainsbury would have had to admit to willingly attempting to smuggle cocaine out of the country to be eligible for a deal.
The plea deal, struck with prosecutors in July, was to serve a reduced prison term in exchange for accepting responsibility for drug trafficking and naming those behind the smuggling ring.
– With agencies