Attorney: Family wanted $1.8 million from Bobby V. to settle rape allegations

POSTED: 06/16/11 1:35 PM

Prosecution demands 18 months for raping 16-year old niece

St. Maarten – Emotions almost spiraled out of control at the courthouse yesterday afternoon during the rape trial of businessman Bobby V. when the defense charged that the rape-victim’s family had approached him for an out of court settlement whereby V. would purchase three apartments from them for $1.5 million. Later the family upped the price to $1.8 million.

The prosecution has charged V. with raping the girl, a 16-year-old niece of his, at his home on March 7 of last year, the closing day of the Heineken Regatta. The girl’s mother stormed angrily out of the court room when V.’s attorney mr. J.G. Bloem revealed details of the settlement proposal. After the trial concluded towards a quarter to seven, the woman’s husband had to restrain her from going after the defendant when he walked out of the courthouse. Her daughter, who is at the center of the case, was also present in the courtroom.

The prosecution asked the court to hear her as a witness, to establish her credibility. Bloem called the prosecution’s request peculiar and improper and said that parties had agreed at the Judge of Instruction not to hear the girl in a public court session.

Prosecutor mr. B. den Hartigh, who did the case together with his colleague mr. M.L.P. Ridderbeks, said that his office had consulted with the girl about a possible court appearance. “She is prepared to do this. She is the only one who is able to state from her own experience,’ he said.

But Judge Keppels denied the request, saying that it did not meet the legal criteria of necessity, since the girl had already made statements to the police and the Judge of Instruction.

The prosecution demands 18 months imprisonment against the defendant, Bobby’s Marina CEO Bobby V. for raping the girl. Six months of the demand are suspended. The defense pleaded acquittal and asked, in case the court found proof, for a suspended prison sentence and community service for the lesser charge of indecent conduct. Judge mr. M. Keppels will pronounce her verdict on Friday July 1.

The primary allegation against Bobby V. remains rape. Judge Keppels went through the case file with the defendant, establishing that he came home from the last day of sailing and that he’d had a meeting with Dutch representatives of the Red Cross that lasted from six to seven thirty that day. He said that he saw his niece for the first time when he got out of the meeting while she was behind the computer in his office. V. also said that he had to hurry up after the meeting to freshen up and change before going to the regatta’s award ceremony at Kimsha Beach.

The girl claimed that V. had forced her on the bed in his bedroom to apply sunscreen to her body and that he took of her shirt and unhooked her bikini top; while the girl attempted to fasten her top with both hands, V. allegedly pulled down her shorts, after which he started to sexually assault her.

He kissed my belly and went further down. I kept saying that he had to stop. I was afraid and I felt alone,” the girl told investigators. “He said I had to be quiet.”

But just before V. allegedly got ready to rape her, the girl managed to get away.

The defendant denies all allegations. “I took her home, that is correct, but I did not notice anything special about her.”

The girl apparently told V. that she wants to become an actress. She also told investigators that he promised her to show her the world and to take her on a cruise.

After eleven o’clock that day, the girl’s father called V. “My daughter says that you improperly touched her,” he said.

V. told the court that he thought the man was joking, after which the father said, “She lies a lot. I call you back.”

The ball started rolling when the girl went down to Kimsha Beach and told her friend about the alleged rape. The boy called the girl’s mother. When the girl went to school the next day, teachers and the guidance counselor at the St. Dominic High School found her behavior odd.

Director Jose Sommers contacted the girl’s father and from there on the case evolved. On May 20, Bobby V. was arrested and he remained behind bars until his release eight days later.

Prosecutor Ridderbeks said that rumors about the alleged sexual abuse were rampant in March of last year, but the prosecutor’s office remained in the dark until the director of St. Dominic High made a report on March 16.

“On March 22 I had my first meeting with the victim, a then 16-year-old girl who told a convincing story. She was determined to file a complaint, but I told her to think about it carefully first. On March 30 she decided to go through with the complaint. I want uncle Bobby to realize that he went too far, she told me.”

Ridderbeks went on to describe details of the rape. “He told her that her boyfriend had nothing to offer to her and that he would show her the world.”

The prosecutor said that the law sets minimum standards for proof. “A conviction cannot be based on the statement of one witness.  There has to be other proof, and the prosecution is of the opinion that this evidence is in the file.”

Ridderbeks referred to corroborating statements by the victim’s boyfriend, her mother, her father, the guidance counselor, her cousin Geronimo, and a psychological report that declared the girl’s state as consistent with that of a sexual assault victim.

The prosecutor said that her office has no doubts about the credibility of the girl’s statements. “She told us that as far as she is concerned her uncle does not have to go to prison, as long as he understands that what he did is wrong.”

mr. Bloem said that there is no proof that his client committed the rape. “The girl’s statements are unreliable, she contradicts herself, or her statements are at odds with those of objective witnesses, and things could not have happened the way she claims they did. It is physically impossible, or at least improbable.

Bloem said that the girl claimed the rape took place between six thirty and seven o’clock. “That is unlikely, because during that time my client made two phone calls, and in the next half hour – should the girl be mistaken about the time – he made three phone calls.

Besides, Bloem added, V. was in a meeting with other people on the porch of his home from six o’clock until seven thirty and the other participants in the meeting confirmed this.

Bloem also charged that the girl was lying about several details, like the fact that she’d been on the phone all the time with friends. Phone records show that the only calls she made were at 16.29, 18.40, 19.29 and 19.31. The last two were most likely text messages she sent to her boyfriend and to a cousin with the word Help.

The attorney said that there is no true corroborating evidence, because all the statements the prosecution refers to stem from one source: the alleged victim. Concluding his plea, Bloem noted, “Raping somebody is bad, but being falsely accused of raping someone is equally bad.”

Prosecutor Den Hartigh maintained that the victim’s statements were consistent. “I would be seriously concerned if she made three statements that were identical on all details. I also find it telling that the defense objected to hearing her as a witness in court. “The question remains: what motive could the girl have to filing a false complaint?” the prosecutor said.

Bloem had an answer for that one, when he revealed details about the settlement proposal the girl’s mother had made. “She called me because she wanted to arrange a meeting with my client – to mediate. What is there to mediate if you don’t want money?” he said. “The options she put forth were that he would admit, that he would buy her three apartments for $1.5 million, or that he would leave everything up to God and the justice system. Later she said that the price had gone up and that she wanted $1.8 million.”

Bobby V., who’d shown throughout the court case with his assertive body language that he was ready for a fight, expressed his disappointment in the way he had been treated by the prosecutor’s office. “I thought they would have come to me and to ask me what had happened. I never expected to be thrown in a cell together with three druggies, to be treated this way after everything I have done for this island.”

 

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