Court staff went into panic mode on Thursday after a Jamaican man showed signs of respiratory distress in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Police arrested the 38-year-old man and nine other Jamaican men at Domingo Heights on March 31 after they found six pounds of marijuana in an apartment.
Magistrate Kara Turnquest-Deveaux, her staff and other members of the public did not come into contact with the sick inmate or any other accused, as the arraignment was done by video from a conference room.
A policeman wearing a face mask escorted the man and his co-accused into Magistrates’ Court 9 in the South Street court complex.
The inmate also wore a mask.
He took short, labored breaths while holding his chest.
At one point, he removed the mask and lay supine on a bench, while holding onto the security bars at the windows in the courtroom. The officer ordered him to put the mask on.
His co-accused were unmasked and crammed together in the prisoner’s dock.
The sick inmate and eight others denied the charge at the arraignment. Another Jamaican national, Winston Waston, 46, pleaded guilty.
He was fined $10,000 or one year in prison.
According to Watson’s lawyer, Ian Cargill, he holds a permit that expires in 2024.
Based on Watson’s guilty plea, the prosecutor, Sergeant Kenny Thompson, withdrew the charges against the other defendants.
Turnquest-Deveaux told a staff member to call an ambulance for the sick man.
However, they were turned over to immigration officials for processing.
So far, there are 24 known coronavirus cases in the country, including one death.