How long will 'Cocaine Cassie' spend behind bars?
THERE was surprise in Australia when it was revealed that accused drug smuggler Cassie Sainsbury had negotiated a plea bargain for a six-year jail sentence.
But it is possible that she will be given an even lighter sentence when she faces court in Colombia Thursday morning, Australian time.
The Adelaide woman, who is accused of trying to smuggle 5.8 kilograms of cocaine out of Bogota airport in April, negotiated down a 30-year maximum jail term to six years in return for pleading guilty.
But in a surprising twist in a Bogota courtroom last month, Senior Judge Sergio Leon delayed approval of the agreement after the 22-year-old said she had been "coerced" into carrying the drugs found in her suitcase.
Ms Sainsbury's Colombian lawyer Orlando Herran told news.com.au that it was "probable" the judge would lessen her sentence.
"Going on what the judge said of the agreement, it is probable that the sentence is going to be lowered a bit, so it could be five years," he told news.com.au in comments translated from Spanish.
However, the same lawyer offered a contradictory prediction when he later spoke to News Corp Australia in Bogota.
Mr Herran said her case would likely go to trial if she stuck to the story that she was threatened into smuggling the drugs.
Mr Herran said Ms Sainsbury was ignoring the advice of both her legal team and her family to take the six-year plea deal because she was concerned about her reputation in Australia.
However, a source from the Colombian Fiscalia, or attorney-general, confirmed to news.com.au that a more lenient sentence was possible.
"He could say, 'As a judge, I cannot approve this agreement and condemn Cassie, when Cassie is saying that she did it because she was threatened'," said the source, who spoke to news.com.au on condition of anonymity.
"So, she is like a victim, so he can't impose a sentence as if she did it consciously, as it was involuntary.
"Normally, in nearly almost all of the cases of drug mules that transport drugs in their clothes, inside their body, or fake bag compartments, these mules, they do it consciously because they know they are going to give them money. 'I am negotiating with someone with the mafia, I am going to transport the drugs, and they are going to pay me, OK.'
"What Cassie is saying I think is very rare. It is not very normal that a person says they were transporting drugs due to threats.
"In this case, if the judge sees her as a victim, he cannot give her a sentence as if she was doing business to make money. It is a different thing.
"In this case, the judge could say she was a victim."
The source said the judge could also order the prosecution to further investigate who allegedly threatened Ms Sainsbury and expose the drug network she became involved with.
It is also possible that the judge, after two weeks' consideration, could approve the six-year deal or send the case the trial.
Mr Herran said he was "content" with the outcome of the hearing on July 26.
"The hearing was very positive, the judge was very interested in knowing Cassandra's situation, in everything social, economic and of her family. And everything was stated very respectfully of all of the rights of Cassandra," he told news.com.au.
Ms Sainsbury has offered various explanations for why she was found with drugs since her arrest in April.
She initially told police that she did not know the drugs were in her suitcase at all.
She later claimed that she knowingly smuggled the drugs because a mystery drug cartel threatened to kill her and her family.
Ms Sainsbury will appear before the judge in Bogota again about 5am Australian eastern standard time on Thursday.