Local councilor convicted of drugs charge, Czech Constitutional Court says he should not have held been in custody
Marcel Cichý, a local councilor and educator in the Czech town of Trmice charged with contributing to international drug sales, was convicted and sentenced on Friday to two years in prison, conditionally suspended for four years. His cousin Ladislav Cichý, who was also charged in the case, will be going to prison for eight and a half years, while another cousin, Pavel Kišš, got a three-year prison sentence suspended for five years.
The trio were arrested by the National Anti-Drug Task Force at the beginning of last year. According to the state prosecutor, they had distributed marijuana and methamphetamine (called pervitin in Czech), but Marcel Cichý was charged only with the marijuana sale.
Marcel Cichý was alleged to have initiated the sale of approximately 2.8 kg of marijuana. However, according to the court decision handed down today, no such sale ultimately ever took place.
According to the court, Marcel Cichý arranged for the marijuana to be sold in Slovakia. The price for a kilogram of the drug was to have been CZK 100 000 (EUR 3 700).
The court's decision is based primarily on wiretaps of telephone conversations and SMS messages between the defendants. According to the court, Marcel Cichý arranged the sale, but it fell through because the drugs were of poor quality, among other reasons.
"The defendants' negotiations were aimed at the sale of marijuana, but no sale happened," presiding Judge Jiří Bednář said. Prosecutor Hana Řeháková insisted that the men were an organized group and sought the most severe punishment for them of up to 18 years in prison.
In his concluding remarks to the court on Thursday, Cichý repeated his assertion that he had considered getting involved in the sale because he was in financial distress, but ultimately backed away from the plan and no sale ever happened. "He has not committed anything, he has not perpetrated any crime, and he should be fully acquitted," his attorney, Zdeněk Grus, said.
Marcel's cousin Ladislav Cichý will be spending eight and a half years in prison for arranging the sale of marijuana and actually selling methamphetamine in Slovakia. Three couriers with almost a kilogram of that methamphetamine were arrested by the Slovak Police.
All three are now being prosecuted in Slovakia. As for Pavel Kišš, he was sentenced to three years in prison, suspended for five years, for cultivating the marijuana intended for the planned sale in Slovakia and distributing the drug in the Ústí Region.
Czech Constitutional Court: Almost a year in custody for such charges is unjustifiable
Marcel Cichý spent several months in custody awaiting trial because the courts decided it would be inappropriate for him to continue to practice his profession and serve in public office if he were to be released on his own recognizance. However, according to a decision by the Czech Constitutional Court in December 2015, neither a defendant's employment nor the public office held by a defendant have any bearing on whether to place that defendant in custody, as long as the job and the office are unrelated to the case.
The activities the courts gave as their reason for remanding Marcel Cichý into custody were unrelated to the charges for which he awaited trial. Constitutional Court Justice David Uhlíř said the courts should not have concerned themselves with whether it was appropriate for the defendant to continue to teach or to perform his duties as a local councilor.
"When deciding on custody, it is only necessary to assess what is actually related to a given case and nothing else," Uhlíř said in December, reminding the lower courts that just because a defendant faces a high prison sentence if convicted, that is decidedly not a reason for the defendant to be remanded into custody. The Constitutional Court has reiterated this point of procedure several times before in other criminal cases.
The District Court in Ústí nad Labem and the Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem both decided Marcel Cichý should be remanded into custody while awaiting trial. He was released from custody several months later by the High Court in Prague.
Marcel Cichý then filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court over his detention. December's finding by the Constitutional Court Justices theoretically gives him the option of seeking compensation for his time in custody.
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