'Upright' man's long fall to drugs smuggler
A former prison guard jailed for smuggling drugs into Waikeria Prison will find the loss of standing among his work mates and community hard to bear, his lawyer says.
Kokiri Kihirini Junior Ronaki, 43, yesterday stood in the dock at the Hamilton District Court surrounded by three Corrections Officers, his former colleagues, as he was sentenced to two and half years' jail.
Ronaki, 43, pleaded guilty to three charges of possession of methamphetamine and cannabis for supply and bringing a glass pipe into prison, on the second day of his trial in June.
On July 13 last year, Ronaki turned up for his scheduled 5.30am shift at the prison unaware Corrections believed he had been smuggling contraband into the prison.
In his bag, police found a thermos coffee cup containing 3.4gm of cannabis, and 1.29gm of methamphetamine - commonly known as P - equating to about 13 saleable ‘points', and a glass pipe.
Crown prosecutor Rebecca Guthrie said police later carried out a search of his home where they found a further 2.3g of cannabis and two packages of P containing a total of 1.5grams of the drug.
A bag holding $885 in cash was also found.
A police investigation discovered Ronaki used code words, including "enemy", "shoes", "patches" and "Barry White" for his dealings.
Ms Guthrie said it was not accepted that Ronaki was still in denial for his offending, and did not set out to abuse his position of authority as an officer. He told probation officers he felt manipulated and intimidated into carrying out the deals.
"Had there been threats and manipulation there were options and choices to have been made."
Ms Guthrie said although the Crown accepted Ronaki was unlikely to reoffend, his actions undermined the penal system and the public's view of Corrections officers.
The Crown accepted Ronaki had a clean history and was "someone who should have known better".
Defence counsel Paul Mabey, QC said the offending was out of character and because of threats being made against Ronaki's family.
Ronaki was known as an "upright" member of his community and hapu and helped police purvey antidrug messages to local youth.
Mr Mabey said the court had two choices: Either Ronaki simply succumbed to threats made against his family or else he was a "cold-blooded drug dealer".
"The former is more explanatory when you know more about him."
Mr Mabey said the hardest thing for his client will be the fall from grace within the Maori community.
"Before all this, he was somebody that everybody looked up to."
Judge Marshall said he would only place a "little amount" of allowance for the threats and told Ronaki he could have sought help from his employers or police.
He said Ronaki was a "good father, a good husband".
"You have been a leader both in the Maori community and also pakeha community and involved in sports and youth. There's so much that can said for you, it's a long fall from the [position] that you now face today."
Ronaki was supported in his court by his family who declined to comment when approached by the Waikato Times.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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