A 71-year-old grandmother was sentenced yesterday to six years in prison for attempting to traffic cocaine in her shoes. Grace Pierre-Holder, a mother of ten of Gasparillo, sat silently in the prisoner enclosure of the Port-of-Spain Fifth Criminal Court, as the sentence was passed by Justice Carla Brown-Antoine. Pierre-Holder was jointly charged with 29-year-old Deanah John-Finn, of Old Southern Main Road, Claxton Bay. John-Finn, who also was sentenced yesterday, wept openly as Brown-Antoine ordered that she serve five years in prison with hard labour. Pierre-Holder was sentenced to simple imprisonment at the Golden Grove Women’s Prison, Arouca, after Brown-Antoine considered the mitigation plea presented on her behalf. Both women were convicted by an eight-member jury on May 3. While addressing Brown-Antoine last month, Pierre-Holder’s attorney Theodore Guerra, SC, asked the court to consider his client’s age in sentencing.
Guerra said Pierre-Holder, who walked with the assistance of a cane, also suffered from diabetes and a thyroid disorder. Guerra appealed to Brown-Antoine to fine his client for the offence but the judge disagreed, saying a custodial sentence was justified. In response to Guerra’s claims about his client’s ill health and the inability of prison staff to care for her, State prosecutor Renuka Rambhajan, brought two medical practitioners attached to the Prisons’ Service, who testified as to the competence of the prison’s infirmary. John-Finn’s attorney, Ravi Rajcoomar, also pleaded with the court for a fine for his client. He asked the court to consider her age when the offence was committed. She was 18 years old at the time. The two were arrested at the Piarco International Airport by officers of the Organised Crime Narcotics and Firearms Bureau (OCNFB) on February 10, 2000.
They were with Pierre-Holder’s daughter, Michelle Leslie, also of Gasparillo, and John-Finn’s boyfriend at the time, Jason Connell. During the trial, the court heard all four were found to be in possession of plastic packets of cocaine which were hidden in the soles of their shoes. At the time of their arrest, they were waiting to board a flight destined for Miami, Florida, en-route to London, England. Leslie and Connell elected to have their matters tried in the Arima Magistrate’s Court. They were found guilty and fined. While on trial, both women denied any wrongdoing and claimed that Leslie gave them the shoes that they wore on the day of their arrests. Pierre-Holder’s legal team also included attorney John Heath.