Prosecution demands 10 years for L’Escargot restaurant armed robbery

POSTED: 06/29/14 4:52 PM

St. Maarten – Prosecutor Gonda van der Wulp demanded 10 years imprisonment yesterday against Franklyn Emmanuel L. for his involvement in the near fatal armed robbery against the owners of L’Escargot restaurant in Philipsburg on October 26, 2012. The court will issue its ruling three weeks from now on Wednesday July 16.

When the restaurant owners left their business around 11 p.m. at the end of an evening where they entertained forty guests and got into their car in the alley next to the restaurant, two men approached their vehicle. They opened the doors on the driver’s and passenger’s side almost simultaneously. The restaurant-owner, who was in the passenger seat, was shot in his shoulder, narrowly escaping a fatal headshot. The other robber pulled his wife out of the car, causing her to break her ankle. Her husband had fallen out of the car and laid bleeding facedown on the street.

The robbers made off with a ladies handbag that contained a considerable amount of money, and later apparently hid it further down the alley where they also left behind a sweatshirt with a hoody one of them wore during the robbery.

Franklyn L. denied in court he had anything to do with the robbery. He said that had been at a casino, then on the boardwalk where he was chilling when he heard gunshots. “I saw people running in the direction of the boardwalk and I saw a man lying on his belly. I panicked.”

The 26-year old defendant said that he was high at the time, that he had found a handbag and a sweatshirt while he was walking in the direction of the Pondfill to go to another bar. He found some cash in the bag, claimed to have put on the sweatshirt before thinking better of it and taking it off again.

It took quite some time before investigators managed to link the defendant to the robbery. In August of last year, they entered L.’s DNA-profile into the DNA-databank and got a match with DNA traces secured from the handbag.

Prosecutor Van der Wulp pointed out the significance of the fact that the Dutch forensic Institute NFI found no other DNA-traces on the sweatshirt. “The victim said that one of the robbers wore that sweatshirt. The defendant is not telling the truth about this.”

The prosecutor conceded that it is possible that the defendant was the one who pulled the restaurant-owner’s wife from the car, because her husband described the man who shot him as someone of approximately 1.70 m with a round face – a description that does not fit L.

Van der Wulp said that she had spoken to the restaurant-owner a couple of days before the trial. “He said that the life of his wife has changed dramatically. It has been destroyed. The robbery has affected her physically and mentally and she suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome. This has had a major impact. The business is also affected, because after the robbery tourists have stayed away.”

Attorney Geert Hatzmann conceded that the case at hand is serious, but pointed out that it hinges on the interpretation of the DNA-evidence. “My client has given an explanation for how the blood ended up on the sweatshirt and the handbag. It is true that he has not always been consistent in his statements. He was in the vicinity and he heard the shots. He saw the victim lying on the street and found the handbag and the sweatshirt a bit further down.”

The attorney said that the real robbers probably had hidden the handbag out of fear for the approaching police and that they had discarded the sweatshirt to avoid recognition. “This is a large coincidence but it is not impossible. It is not possible to disprove the alternative explanation. This is why I ask the court to acquit my client.”

In case the court finds L. guilty, Hatzmann said that a sentence of 10 years is going too far. In a similar case the appeals court sentenced a defendant to 6 years. Hatzmann asked the court to impose part of an eventual punishment conditional.

Prosecutor Van der Wulp reacted briefly by stating that she did not consider the alternative explanation for what happened as plausible.

Judge Koos van de Ven remarked during the proceedings that he had sentenced L. in December to a 3-year conditional prison sentence for theft and burglary.

The defendant has in the meantime followed a program at the turning point rehab center and is now drug free.



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