By JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER
HONOLULU — A musician who admitted smuggling marijuana inside drums on a flight from San Francisco to Honolulu was sentenced Tuesday to three months in federal detention and three months of home confinement.
Before he was sentenced in federal court in Honolulu, Brian Kusko, 33, said getting caught “felt like a blessing,” because spending a long weekend locked up, while his wife was pregnant with his first child, was a wake-up call to “never make this mistake again.”
Kusko pleaded guilty in April to possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute.
According to the plea agreement, Kusko checked in three pieces of oversized luggage containing musical drums for an October 2012 Hawaiian Airlines flight.
Transportation Security Administration screeners found about 23 pounds of marijuana in one drum. TSA seized the marijuana and the drum and allowed the other two pieces of luggage to be loaded onto the plane, the document states. Kusko was already on board.
San Francisco police notified authorities in Hawaii. When the flight landed, the two pieces of luggage were examined by a Honolulu police narcotics dog, which detected something suspicious, according to court records.
The cases were placed on the baggage claim carousel and when Kusko went to pick them up, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration questioned him.
Inside the cases, the agents found about 20 pounds of marijuana and 438 grams of hashish in the drums, according to the plea agreement. Kusko was arrested.
U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson noted the amount of marijuana involved.
“This is a significant amount of drugs you secreted in your musician drums,” he said.
The saddest part, Watson said, was that he didn’t do it because it was the only way to provide for his family.
“This wasn’t brought on by desperate circumstances,” the judge said. “This wasn’t anything other than greed.”
Before rendering his sentence, Watson said that confinement would mean Kusko would miss milestones in his infant son’s life. He also ordered Kusko to pay a $20,000 fine.
Defense attorney William Harrison had requested probation, saying his client made a “huge mistake” and that he “really got into the situation by happenstance.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Muehleck had asked the judge to impose some confinement.
“Marijuana is, and remains, a dangerous drug,” Muehleck said.