Prosecution demands combined 32 years against four suspects

POSTED: 03/17/11 2:29 PM

Youngsters accused of armed robbery and membership of a criminal organization

St. Maarten – Four suspects, three of them very young, fourteen different crimes – among them attempted murder, armed robbery, multiple car thefts, firearm possession and membership of a criminal organization – and sturdy demands by the prosecution of between 38 months and 10 years imprisonment for a combined total of 31 years and 8 months. Judge Mr. M. Keppels will pronounce her verdicts on April 6.

Prosecutor Mr. M.L.P. Keppels demanded 10 years against Jermaine J.M. (20), 9 years against his 4 months older cousin Edwin A.A., 9 years and 6 months against Roland T.J. (19) and 38 months against Michael D.C. (27).

The Court in First Instance needed all day yesterday until well after six o’clock in the evening to deal with the case.

The most serious charge was leveled against Roland T.J. for attempted murder on R. Mitchell on July 17th of last year. J. went with others to Mitchell’s house to claim money owed to him. At the house on Illidge Road he decided to take a dirt bike belonging to Mitchell’s brother as security for the debt.

Mitchell pursued the bike-thieves with a machete, but saw his fortunes change when J. came after him with a shotgun. J. fired shots at his victim and hit him in his leg.

“I didn’t want anything with the bike,” he said in court. “I just wanted my money.” Under questioning by Judge Keppels he admitted that he had fired shots in Mitchell’s direction, but that he had not been aiming at him. That he hit his victim nevertheless led the Judge to conclude that he could have hit him anywhere.

“The way you tell it sounds worse than what I have read in the file,” she said. “You aimed at him, you did not intend to shoot, but you did.”

“Why did you take a shotgun with you when you wanted to talk about money?” prosecutor Ridderbeks wondered.

“For safety,” the defendant replied.

“That talks easier,” the prosecutor retorted.

Another charge that stood out was the violent robbery of a couple in Galis Bay on the French side.  Cousins A. and M. were involved in this crime together with other defendants who will appear in court on May 11th. The cousins went hunting for a specific car together with Omar N., aka Chucky. In Galis Bay they spotted a couple coming home after work half an hour after midnight in the desired brand.

The robbers threatened the couple with a gun, hit the man with the weapon on his head and took his cell phone, car keys and a small amount of money. The woman fled, but was followed by M. and Julio E.-V. They half-strangled her before robbing her of her handbag. Then they took off with the car.

When the manager of the condo complex came outside armed with a baseball bat, shots were fired in his direction. The forensic investigation showed that the man did not get hit by any bullets because there was a car in the way.

The case file shows that Edwin A. fired shots from his car at a witness who had appeared on a balcony.

Another robbery took place on October 12th in Cay Hill, where Jermaine M. and Edwin A. together with Michael C. robbed a man who was sleeping in his car on the side of the road. They pulled the man, whom they claimed was only dressed in his underwear out of his rental car and took his passport, $400, a cell phone and the car.

Michael C. had the most remarkable charge to his name. At his home investigators found a bucket filled with car keys. He was also charged with a burglary at the U Save car rental on October 5th, whereby he somehow took 5 rental cars and 35 ignition keys.

The prosecution dropped a compilation charge for car theft against several of the defendants because, due to the fact that resources were required to investigate more serious crimes, the police had not had the time to complete the investigation.

Prosecutor Ridderbeks said that the standard penalty for a violent armed robbery is 8 years; for stealing a single car 6 months; for firearm possession 12 months; for fencing 3 months; for a robbery without the use of weapons 24 months; for theft with the use of violence and threatening someone with a shotgun 24 months; for attempted murder 7 years; and for participating in a criminal organization 1 year.

Hence the demand against Jermaine M. ought to be 140 months; against Roland J. 123 months; against Edwin A. 114 months; and against Michael C. 45 months.

But as the number of crimes increases, the combined punishment tends to decrease, if only slightly. This is how prosecutor Ridderbeks arrived at a demand of 10 years against Jermaine M., 9 years against his cousin Edwin A., 9 years and 6 months against Roland J. and 38 months against Michael C.

Defense attorney Mr. S.R. Bommel contested there is proof for fencing of a car) against her client Roland J. and that there is insufficient proof for the membership of a criminal organization. She also contested the attempted murder charge, because there was no prior plan to make an attempt on Mitchell’s life.

For her client Michael C., Bommel pleaded acquittal of the fencing charge for a car and the bucket of car keys. His participation in the robbery in Cay Hill “has to be seen in the right context. He tried to pull the man out of his car and he understands that this is something you cannot do.”

Defense attorney Mr. Z.J. Bary considered the 10-year demand against her client Jermaine M. “shocking.” She said that M. did not know there was a gun present at the robbery on October 16th, that he had not fired any shots and that he had cooperated with the investigation. “Yet the prosecutor demands one year more against him than against his cousin. None of the other suspects has said that he was involved.”

Bary asked the court to impose more than half of the penalty against her client as a suspended sentence.

Mr. B.B. Brooks said that her client admits he was at the scene during the October 16th robbery but that he never left the car. She also asked the court to acquit her client of car theft. “Where was the plan?” she asked.

Brooks contested that the defendants had been part of a criminal organization. “They go along, something comes up and it happens,” she said. “They improvise as they go along. Criminal organizations do not improvise; they plan.”

Brooks also pointed out that her client had spent 57 days too long in a police cell and that this ought to be taken into account. Michael C. spent 70 days to long in a similar cell.


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