19 Aug 2022

Jury delivers guilty verdict in €21,660 Edgeworthstown drugs trial

Jury delivers guilty verdict in  €21,660 Edgeworthstown drugs trial

A man standing trial for possession of over €20,000 worth of drugs has been found guilty by a jury of 12 people.

Thomas Leonavicius, a former resident at Corboy Lodge, Edgeworthstown, Longford accepted responsibility for quantities of cannabis discovered in the house by Detective Gda Brendan Lynn, Inspector Tom Quinn and a number of other gardaí, but denied possession of a large quantity of drugs found outside the property.

The trial began at the recent sittings of Longford Circuit Court, which took place in Mullingar Courthouse.

The court heard from Inspector Tom Quinn and Detective Garda Brendan Lynn that search warrants were obtained from Judge Seamus Hughes before a search was carried out at Corboy Lodge on August 15, 2018.

Upon entering the house, gardaí met with Mr Leonavicius and informed him of the search warrant. They showed it to him and then cautioned him before asking if he had any controlled drugs in the house.

Mr Leonavicius showed Detective Gda Lynn a bag of cannabis that he had in a room upstairs before gardaí continued the search of the house.

A sum of €440 cash was seized from Mr Leonavicius’ wallet in the kitchen, as was a mobile phone discovered in the sitting room.

Gda Lynn discovered two bags of cannabis in the upstairs bedroom.

In the kitchen, Inspector Quinn seized a bag of plastic baggies on the kitchen countertop, which he said were used for storing drugs in quantities.

“There were three boxes of sandwich bags with pictures of apples and bananas and cakes and buns on them,” explained Inspector Quinn.

There were also two bags of smaller, self-seal bags with 50 in a pack. That, with the 25 sandwich bags per pack brought the total number of bags discovered to 175.

Also seized from within the house was an unopened roll of black duct tape and a roll that had been opened and used. Gardaí also seized a small black weighing scales, which Mr Leonavicius admitted was used to weigh drugs.

“I then carried out a search of the kitchen and in the press I seized a bag of cannabis,” said Inspector Quinn, showing the jury the bag which had been seized.

“It’s in a similar plastic bag with apples and bananas and sandwiches on it.”

Inspector Quinn then seized another bag from a press in the hallway which contained a smaller quantity of cannabis and was in a similar sandwich bag.

“I requested that Ms Jordan search the exterior of the property and the roads on either side,” he continued. “She indicated to me that her dog was signalling to an area around a defibrillator.”

Gardaí carried out a search in the area and discovered a glass jam jar with a bag inside containing a quantity of white powder.

This bag was also a similar sandwich bag. It was later revealed that the powder was methamphetamine.

Gardaí went further with the dog and searched the ditches on either side of the junction. On the roadside across the junction, Ms Jordan signalled that the dog was highlighting an area over there and, on inspection, gardaí observed two black plastic containers in the ditch. Detective Gda Lynn recovered them and discovered large quantities of cannabis inside.

Detective Gda Lynn, in his evidence, explained to the court that the containers were sealed with black plastic duct tape, exactly like that discovered within the house, which was wrapped around the lid of the containers. A forensic DNA test on the lid and the tape linked the containers back to Mr Leonavicius.

On searching the back yard, Gardaí discovered two more similar containers that were empty. They were also seized.

Mr Leonavicius pleaded guilty to possession of the drugs that were discovered within the house but denied responsibility for the drugs discovered outside the house.

In his closing statement, Shane Geraghty Bl, for the State, explained to the jury that, while there were many coincidences and a lot of “circumstantial evidence”, it was still possible to return a guilty verdict.

“Coincidences happen every day in life but there comes a stage where, with an accumulation of circumstances in a case that come together, you’ll reach a certain conclusion,” he said.

“We don’t have a photograph of Mr Leonavicius holding the containers or putting cannabis in them,” he continued, referring to the two plastic containers filled with the herb which were located near his house.

“Does that mean the prosecution has failed? No. The strands of circumstantial evidence are like a rope which is frayed at the bottom. It all comes together, like the strands of your daughter’s ponytail or a French braid.

“The containers that he uses are the same containers found in the ditch. The containers were simply disregarded at the back of his house. They were his containers.

“The duct tape utilised for sealing the black containers is the same duct tape that he had in his house. He can say anybody could have that but isn’t he very unlucky that the duct tape used to seal the containers is the same as his? Isn’t he very unlucky that the containers are the same as his containers? Isn’t he very unlucky that his DNA was found on the lid of one of those containers?

“Then there’s the ziplock bags. The amphetamine was found in the same kind of ziplock bag that was found in his house. Isn’t that a coincidence?”Mr Geraghty then referred to a number of admissions made by Mr Leonavicius during his interviews with gardaí.

“He has admitted to travelling across the border into Newry to get drugs. He has confirmed a man from Swords comes down and provides him with drugs. He confirmed he had a weighing scale for drugs and gardaí seized other drug paraphernalia from his house.

“In his interview he said ‘when you open a bag you need to separate it (the cannabis) quick to keep it moist’. The reason it was stored in those containers was to keep it airtight so it would stay moist.

“He confirmed he has a scale so that when drugs dealers come to his house, he is able to divvy the drugs out. He put his hand up regarding the drugs inside the house and may I suggest that the reason he did that is because gardaí had caught him red-handed? He had to confess.”

Mr Geraghty advised the jury to use some “common sense” when deciding a verdict.

“There’s a reason why criminality takes place covertly,” he said, “You’re not going to walk down the street and see someone with a bag of cannabis.

“They need to get it away from the house and then if gardaí come to execute a warrant, it won’t be there.

“There is overwhelming evidence here. The containers he accepted responsibility for are the same as the containers found in the ditch. The tape was the same as his tape. The bags were the same as his bags.

“When you take all of these strands together, they knit tightly only in one view and that is possession.

“He’s either a very unlucky man or there are too many coincidences. And there are only so many coincidences the mind can take before it draws a conclusion.”

In his rebuttal, counsel for the defence, Mr Gerard Groarke Bl, said that the prosecution’s case relies in the jury taking a leap over a gap in the evidence.

“Ultimately what you’re being asked to decide today is whether or not Thomas was in possession of the fruit jar and the two containers found in the ditch. You don’t have to concern yourself in any way with what was found in the house,” he said.

“The state are saying the only reason he pleaded guilty was because he was caught red-handed. In interview he told gardaí the truth and he made a number of admissions that he didn’t have to make.

“He told them he supplied small amounts of cannabis to his friends. He admitted that if someone offered him a fiver for a bit of cannabis he would take it. He admitted to travelling to Northern Ireland to get drugs. There would be no record of that evidence if he didn’t admit it.

“The fruitfield jam jar, which can in no way be connected to Thomas, was found in a position only reachable from outside the property.

“There’s not enough evidence to enable you to jump to the conclusion that the prosecution wants you to jump to. If you rob a bank and you go out with a tesco bag full of cash, should gardaí arrest everyone with a tesco bag? No,” Mr Groarke continued.

“The only connection is a ziplock bag and we don’t know how many of those are sold in Ireland every year. The containers had his DNA because it was his container. If the DNA was on the tape we’d have a different case because that would be evidence that he touched the tape.

“Why did the forensic sampling laboratory choose that sampling strategy? And, when DNA was found, why didn’t they take a second sample? If we had a swab of the lid and swab of the tape we would know definitively if we were looking at DNA on the lid or the tape.

“Ask yourselves why forensic services selected the sampling strategy they did and ask yourselves why they didn’t swab again.

“What I submit is the DNA evidence doesn’t help you in any way. All it tells you is prior to gardaí swabbing the sample, Thomas touched the container.

“You’ve been told the drugs found were worth in or around €20,000. I don’t have any difficulty with that valuation. I do have difficulty understanding how Thomas, who was out of work for ten months, who gets €198 a week on welfare, who was using duct tape to repair his car… where does he get €20,000 for drugs?

“What the prosecution wants you to do is go out and jump to conclusions - to leap over the gap in evidence. They don’t have the evidence of him holding the drugs. There is no evidence other than coincidence. They say coincidences like this just don’t happen. That’s the argument.

“There’s missing information. You deserve to have been given that information but you weren’t.”

The jury ultimately found Mr Leonavicius guilty on all counts by unanimous verdict. He is due to reappear before Judge Keenan Johnson at the January sittings for sentencing.

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