Accused marijuana smuggler denies he's part of a conspiracy
NAHA, Okinawa — Although he previously pleaded guilty, the second of two former Marine Corps Community Service employees charged with smuggling marijuana through the Japanese postal system denied Monday he was a part of a conspiracy.
During a hearing in Naha District Court, Rick Ragsdale, 21, said he was unaware of Tommy Gaskin Jr’s intentions to mail marijuana from Florida inside a toy animal.
Ragsdale admitted in March he agreed to let Gaskin, 24, the husband of an Air Force service member assigned to Kadena Air Base, have the package mailed to his post office box in Okinawa City.
However, he told the judge, he had no knowledge that Gaskin was attempting to smuggle marijuana. He said he at first refused Gaskin’s request.
“I suspected that something wasn’t right,” he said.
“Then why did you end up letting him use your address?” asked his defense attorney, Masanori Higa.
“Because he kept asking and he said that he would take the responsibility if something would happen,” Ragsdale said.
He told Chief Judge Nobuyuki Yokota that Gaskin said he wanted to have a package mailed from Florida without letting his wife know.
Prosecutor Tsuyoshi Satake argued that Ragsdale was an integral part of the conspiracy to smuggle about 3.37 ounces of marijuana concealed in a teddy bear. It was mailed from the United States on March 14. Japanese customs officers in Yokohama detected the marijuana in the parcel shipped by sea April 25.
Gaskin pleaded guilty at a hearing last week, and Satake asked for a 30-month prison sentence. He is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 6.
During questioning Monday, Satake asked Ragsdale if the sworn statements he made to police and prosecutors during the investigation were accurate.
“Are any portions erroneous?” Satake asked.
“No,” Ragsdale answered.
Satake asked the court to hand down a sentence of two years in prison, arguing that it was evident Ragsdale agreed to have marijuana mailed to his post office box on condition that he would get a share of the illegal substance.
Prior to the prosecution’s final argument, Yokota asked how many times Ragsdale had smoked marijuana in the past.
“Maybe four or five times,” Ragsdale answered.
“Didn’t you involve yourself in this incident because you yourself wanted to have marijuana?” the judge asked.
“No, not really,” Ragsdale replied, shaking his head.
He said he regretted being involved.
His attorney said Ragsdale’s involvement was “minimal” and he should be given a suspended sentence.
Ragsdale’s sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 21.