Defendant tells gangster stories to justify firearm possession

POSTED: 03/13/14 1:53 PM

St. Maarten – Gregory Hinds had quite a story to tell in the Court in First Instance yesterday, but that did not save him from a conviction for firearm possession. After a demand of 18 months by prosecutor Karola van Nie, Judge Koos van de Ven settled for 12 months of imprisonment, with 4 months suspended and 2 years of probation.

The 46-year-old Hinds collided with his scooter on February 4 with a Jeep. He fell on the street and a weapon, that later turned out to be a loaded 9 mm Beretta, fell out of his scooter. Hinds quickly gave the weapon to a bystander and asked him to hide it for him. Unfortunately for the defendant police officers witnessed the accident and they also saw the weapon.

Hinds freely confessed in court that the weapon was his. His explanation seemed to come straight from the script of a gangster movie. “Someone was after me with a machine gun,” he told the court. Later he added that this “someone” was none other than 2-Pac, real name Rodrigue Bernard Cocks, who was killed in a drive-by shooting in French Quarter on February 16.

Asked why this character was after him, Hinds answered: “He said I was a snitch that I was talking to police officers. I saw him many times coming out of a car with a machine gun and I had to run.”

Hinds said that he went twice to the police about these incidents. “But I did not mention any names. If you are branded as a snitch in St. Maarten you are dead. The people who saw 2-Pac with his machine gun do not want to talk to the police.”

During the investigation before the trial, Hinds told a prosecutor that he was threatened by Colombians. Asked for details, Hinds said that this played in the years 2005 to 2007. “Those Colombians would come here to settle a score.”

Judge Van de Ven noted that Hinds has eight criminal convictions to his name – five of them involving violence against others. The last conviction dates back to 2006, and the last one before that to 1994, when the defendant was 27.

Hinds explained that in 1992, he had ripped off some Colombians in a drug deal that involved 5 kilos of cocaine. “I took everything for myself,” he said. “But these guys do not forgive and they do not forget.”

To prove his point, Hinds said that in those years he had been shot five times and stabbed once. At the judge’s request, he undid his shirt to show some of the bullet wound scars on his body. “I still have a bullet in my spine and I have three operations to go,” he said.

Prosecutor Karola van Nie considered the accusation proven. “The defendant has attempted to hide the weapon, but thanks to the police officers that were on the scene the weapon and sixteen rounds of live ammo could be taken out of circulation. There is no justification whatsoever for having this weapon in his possession. He has had it for years and he has never thought once to hand it over to the police. We all know that 2-Pac is no longer alive, so it is easy to make statements about him.”

The prosecutor said that Hinds had spoken twice with police officer Krips, but that he had never filed an official complaint. “And why would he be labeled as a snitch? He never gave any information to the police.”

The prosecutor asked the court to impose the maximum penalty for firearm possession – 18 months of imprisonment.

Attorney Geert Hatzmann admitted to the court that his client had been a black sheep in the past. “He was a bad guy and it is difficult to get away from that. Still, he managed to do that and he is now a paterfamilias with a job. He is making 3,600 guilders a month at a casino. He has had this weapon for years but he has never fired it. This is not a trigger-happy man, but he has been traumatized because he has been shot five times.”

The attorney said that a lengthy prison sentence would make his client jobless. “Then what is his perspective? He deserves punishment, but not 18 months. Let this be a conditional sentence with the maximum community service of 240 hours and a fine of a couple of thousand dollars.”

Judge Van de Ven ruled that the times the defendant has been shot at, happened too long ago to play a role in the case. “There is no proof for new threats and there is no justification for firearm possession.” The court sentenced Hinds to 12 months, with 4 months suspended and 2 years of probation.



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