Appeals court finds Bobby Velasquez guilty of rape

POSTED: 10/21/11 11:57 AM

St. Maarten –The Common Court of Justice overruled the Court in First Instance yesterday and found businessman Bobby Velasquez guilty of raping a 16-year-old second cousin on March 7 of last year. The lower court acquitted the defendant on June 15. The appeals court sentenced the 66-year-old owner of Bobby’s Marina to 15 months imprisonment. Of the sentence, 12 months are suspended. The court imposed 3 years of probation. Velasquez will go in cassation of the sentence at the Supreme Court.
The court decided to suspend a large part of the sentence, because Velasquez has no prior convictions for rape, because of his age and because of the damage he suffered from the media coverage of the trial.
In July, the Court in First Instance acquitted Velasquez based on reasonable doubt. Judge mr. M. Keppels found proof for the rape legal, but not convincing.
The appeals court judges – mr. P.E. de Kort, J. de Boer and E.M. van der Bunt – dismissed arguments by the defense that the prosecution ought to be declared inadmissible because of technicalities. The court also dismissed the notion by defense attorneys mr. J.G. Bloem and E.F. Sulvaran that the statements by the plaintiff were unreliable.
“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 in its considerations.
The judges found supporting evidence for the girl’s statements in a text-message (with the word “help”) she sent to Jeramie C and Geronimo V. shortly after she escaped from Velasquez. The girl’s father told investigators that, after his daughter had told him about the assault, he had confronted Velasquez, who then told him that he had put suntan lotion on the girl’s body. The court considers this additional supporting evidence. Furthermore, the court established that Velasquez and the girl were together in the defendant’s house at the time of the rape.
Against Velasquez, the court held that he had made different statements about when and where he had put suntan lotion on the girl’s body. “These changing statements harm the credibility of the defendant’s statements,” the court ruled.
The court lent no credibility to defense arguments about blackmail attempts by the girl’s mother. In court, mr. 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.
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.

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