10 Aug 2006

Marshalls drugs case fails after witness recants testimony

3:14 pm on 10 August 2006

A Marshall Islands man wrongly accused of being a cocaine dealer has been acquitted after spending three months in jail.

Lonnie Howard lost his job at the US Army base at Kwajalein and was forced to move to another island after he had been accused of buying cocaine.

But at the trial, he was found not guilty after a government witness recanted an earlier statement to police in which he claimed to have bought five dollars worth of cocaine from the accused.

According to government officials, the witness had been picked up on a minor charge, and in exchange for ignoring the violation, police on Ebeye gave him five dollars and told him to buy cocaine and then tell them who he got it from.

He told police his neighbour, Mr Howard, had sold it to him

At the trial, the witness told the court that he spent the money on food.

The jury believed his new version of events and Mr Howard was acquitted on all charges.