One month ago, mother of two and businesswoman, Ria Sookdeo, kissed her children goodbye as she dropped them off at school.
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Woman on drug charge freed after retrial
Shirley Charles of Penal thanked Jesus, her attorneys and the nine-member jury yesterday after she was freed of a charge of trafficking 2.4 kilos of cocaine in 2008. Charles, 54, who was represented by Joel Roper and Gideon McMaster, wept and shouted, “Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus, thank you, Lord,” and then wept in the Port-of-Spain Fifth Criminal Court. She was before a jury for the second time, after Appeal Court judges Stanley John, Paula Mae Weekes and Alice Soo Hon ordered a retrial in April 2009.
She had been sentenced to 15 years in jail one year prior by Justice Andre Mondesir. It was alleged that Charles, a housewife, tried to smuggle the drug into New York by hiding it in the lining of a suitcase. After deliberating for just over an hour the jury returned with a not-guilty verdict. Charles, on hearing the verdict, began crying and hugged McMaster. As the jury was being led out of the courtroom she thanked them and had to be stopped gently by presiding judge David Harris. Speaking to the media afterwards Charles again thanked God and expressed thanks to her church, family, friends and other well-wishers.
The State, which was represented by Tricia Hudlin-Cooper, called two witnesses in the case, which alleged that on September 6, 2002, PC Mc Donald of the Organised Crime and Narcotics Bureau (OCNU) was on duty at Piarco International Airport when he received certain information and stopped Charles. In the lining of her suitcase, he found a white powdery substance.