Supreme Court finds no grounds for cassation in Velasquez-case – Rape-conviction irrevocable against ageing businessmanPOSTED: 10/23/13 8:11 PM
St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – Almost two years after the Common Court of Justice found businessman Bobby Velasquez guilty of raping his 16-year-old niece, the Supreme Court has ruled that there are no grounds for cassation. The decision from the highest court in the Kingdom dates back to August 27, Solicitor-General Taco Stein confirmed to this newspaper yesterday.
Velasquez, who is 68 now, raped the girl at his home during the Heineken Regatta weekend in March 2011. He first appeared in court in June, but the Court in First Instance acquitted him, based on reasonable doubt. Judge Monique Keppels considered the rape legally proven, but not convincingly.
In October of the same year, the Common Court of Justice arrived at a different conclusion. It found Velasquez guilty and sentenced him to 15 months imprisonment. Of the sentence, 12 months are suspended. The court imposed 3 years of probation. Velasquez went in cassation to the Supreme Court, but this has now ruled that there are no valid grounds to cassation. This means that the sentence from October 2011 stands.
Attorneys for Velasquez argued in 2011 that statements made by the girl were unreliable, but the court rejected this argument. “The plaintiff gave in her complaint a very detailed description of what happened on March 7 between her and the defendant. This statement is consistent with what she told her parents, Geronimo V., Jeramie C., the school counselor and the psychiatrist. The same is true for the written statements in which the plaintiff describes the incident to her parents and to her school counselor. In her statement in front of the Judge of Instruction, the plaintiff stood by her statements,” the court wrote at the time in its considerations.
The appeals court lent no credibility either to defense arguments about blackmail attempts by the girl’s mother. In court, Velasquez’ attorney Jairo Bloem claimed that the mother had demanded $1.8 million as the purchase price for three pieces of real estate to make the complaint go away, but the court did not even make this unsubstantiated claim part of its considerations.
Instead, the court ruled that Velasquez had abused his physical and psychological ascendancy, and that he abused the trust the girl put in him as her great-uncle. “The actions of the defendant have seriously disrupted the relationships within the family,” the judges wrote. “The defendant violated the victim’s psychological and physical integrity. He let his own sexual feelings prevail over the interest of the victim and did not consider the psychological consequences for her.
The court case caused quite a stir in 2011 with demonstrations by family members of the girl in front of the courthouse. It is unlikely that Velasquez will ever serve the three months jail time he now has to his name because the prison is filled to capacity and the justice system prefers to let convicts serve their time that are already incarcerated at the time of sentencing.