A FORMER professional footballer who was convicted of running a £37,500 cocaine dealing operation has been jailed for two-and-a-half years.
Ex-Hearts midfielder Paul MacDonald, 29, was arrested by officers who discovered drugs and manufacturing equipment at a flat following a tip off.
During a raid in March, 2015, they found a hydraulic press, a set of scales and bags containing cocaine worth £37,500 at the two bedroom property in Blantyre, Lanarkshire.
The ex-midfielder’s DNA was found on the buttons of the scales and his fingerprints were found on the bags and he was charged with being concerned in the supply of cocaine.
MacDonald, of East Kilbride, who also played for Clyde and represented Scotland at youth level, claimed he had only visited the flat once to carry out an intruder alarm survey for the landlord.
He said a set of scales and empty bags had fallen out of a boiler cupboard when he was there and he had picked them up.
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But a jury at Hamilton Sheriff Court convicted him of dealing drugs between March 2014 and March 2015 by a majority verdict.
Today, he was sentenced to 30 months behind bars by Sheriff Thomas Millar.
Nigel Scullion, defending, said MacDonald still insisted he was innocent.
He added: “From the content of the report it is clear that he maintains position but reluctantly accepts the verdict of the jury and will take whatever is coming his way.
“This is his first offence for nine years and these were road traffic and a breach of the peace.
“Maintaining his innocence means there is little that can be said to this particular offence.
“His attitude to drugs is clear and he knows the harm that they can cause in society.
“His family are here and he has a very strong work ethic and has his own business.
“He is assessed as being at a low risk of re-offending but it is hard to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted.
“He is remorseful but it is still a situation where he maintains his innocence.”
MacDonald’s trial heard a neighbour at the block of flats say he had seen a man resembling him frequenting the property.
Macdonald, who formed a security alarm firm after quitting the game in 2010, told the jury: “I was given a key to the flat by the landlord and I went there to do a survey.
“I had done some work for her in the past and she asked me to inspect two properties she had in Blantyre.
“I was only in this flat once and later the police arrived at my door at 8 o’clock in the morning and said I was being arrested for the misuse of drugs.
“I had no idea what they were talking about.
“While I was there I was in all the rooms and I picked items up which fell out a cupboard so my fingerprints and DNA would have been there, 100 per cent.
“But I had no involvement with any drug dealing. I had nothing to do with this.”
Sheriff Millar said: “At the conclusion of the trial you were found guilty of supplying drugs, class A drugs.
“On the day the property was raided cocaine valued at £37,500 was recovered and it was described as being a substantial operation with presses and such like being recovered.
“You were linked to this by DNA from your fingerprints.
“It would be possible for this court to have imposed the maximum sentence but given the report and references are favourable, I will restrict the period of imprisonment but it will still has to be for a significant period.”