EX-NRL star Jason Smith has avoided a stint in jail after pleading guilty to downgraded charges of possessing cocaine.
The 44-year-old was today sentenced to three years imprisonment – but released immediately on parole – for buying 6.5 ounces of the drug.
The court was told Smith bought the cocaine from accused cocaine kingpin John Touma between June and November 2014.
Smith was initially charged with trafficking in the wake of a Crime and Corruption Commission investigation into the drug ring that also triggered charges against a number of other high-profile football identities, several of whom had their charges dismissed.
Former Queensland State of Origin player Jason Smith outside Toowoomba court.
But prosecutors withdrew the trafficking charge last December and substituted it with supply ones, which have also been downgraded.
Today, Smith pleaded guilty to eight charges of possessing more than 2 grams of cocaine.
Supreme Court judge Ann Lyons said there was no evidence Smith had sold the drugs to anybody, adding the “commercial aspect was at the lower end”.
“Unlike most other cases where there is commercial possession, I accept yours wasn’t motivated by personal greed,” she told Smith.
“I accept it was personal addiction and an overwhelming desire to reduce the costs of the drug.”
The court heard, after retiring from an “unblemished” professional football career, Smith was “obsessively” working at a hotel, and having marriage issues, when he embarked on heavy cocaine use.
Justice Lyons said that, on five occasions, Smith shared the cocaine he’d obtained from Touma with his friend Jason Wood.
“You paid a total of $34,100 for your share of the cocaine. You also paid debts incurred by Mr Wood to Touma that amounted to $15,700,” Justice Lyons said.
Smith deposited payments into Touma’s TAB account using the account at the hotel.
Money was also directly paid to a courier at times, the court heard.
Prosecutor David Jones said that on August 24, 2014, Smith ordered half an ounce of cocaine “with the intent to on-supply it to some rugby league players”.
Defence barrister Alastair McDougall said his client, a father of four, had suffered depression and a “terrible” drug addiction in 2014 and was extremely remorseful.
He also spoke of the toll coverage from the original charges had on Smith.
The court heard a doctor’s report noted that poor decision-making in relation to cocaine is related to head injury and depression.
Justice Lyons remarked she found the sentencing “difficult” given the “rather unique circumstances” in the case.
She told Smith the community denounced his conduct.
“You have a parole release date of today but you still have a three year sentence,” she said.
“This is a significant consequence for you, your life will be restricted, but in the circumstances I consider it an appropriate penalty.”
“I also make a declaration in relation to a serious drug offence.”
Outside court, lawyer Chris Hannay declared it was a “very good outcome for Jason” and urged the Toowoomba community to go visit Smith at the hotel he runs and “have a beer with him”.
“He’s been part of this community for a long time and certainly I think now Toowoomba can get behind him – and, once again, go and visit him at the pub and have a beer with him,” Mr Hannay said.
As originally seen on The Courier Mail by Kate McKenna on June 16, 2016.