Boardwalk robbers face 3 years in prison

POSTED: 02/17/12 12:51 PM

Defense says arrests were unjustified

St. Maarten – Two suspects from Anguilla are facing a 3-year prison sentence for an armed robbery on a couple on the Boardwalk in the early morning of January 1 of this year. The Court in First Instance will pronounce the verdict in two weeks time, on February 29.

A third suspect will come back to court on March 21, because his attorney mr. Shaira Bommel had only recently received the case and had not had enough time to prepare the defense. Her client is an interesting one: he received a summons in the name of Romaine W., a 22-year-old from Nevis, but the defendant maintained that his name is Troy M. The prosecutor’s office however, has established based on finger print evidence that the defendant is indeed Romaine W. He has a criminal record in Anguilla where he escaped from custody in December.

The two defendants whose cases were handled are both 18-year-olds from Anguilla: Nayshawn B. and Kietdaro Kyron L. Their attorney mr. Geert Hatzmann bombarded the court with an elaborate formal defense argument before Judge mr. Monique Keppels got around to discussing the actual case. mr. Hatzmann said that the police and the prosecutor’s office had violated proper procedures and that therefore his clients would not get a fair trial.

“It starts with the arrest of the man that I know as Troy M., so that’s what I will call him. He has been seen in the company of two others. That is not prohibited. Nobody said that they were involved in a robbery. There was not a single circumstance to label my clients as suspects,” Hatzmann said.

Nevertheless the police went looking for the two defendants and found them at the KFC in Philipsburg. Because they did not have papers with them they were arrested based on the ordinance for admission and expulsion, Hatzmann pointed out.

“They were not co-suspects. The police are not allowed to ask citizens in a random way for identification. There has to be a reasonable suspicion of guilt. The ordinance on admission and expulsion has been used as an excuse for the arrest.”

When the defendants told the police that their passports were in their hotel room officers took them there. In the room they found three cell phones on a bed. When one of the defendants said that he had bought one of the phones on the street from an unknown man, officers became suspicious. When they called a random number the man on the other end said that he knew the phone’s owner: he had just been robbed that morning.

Hatzmann pointed out that the police had no reason to start asking questions about the phones, since they had gone with the two youngsters to the hotel to fetch their passports. Officers had not cautioned the youngsters either, he added. They spent two days without reason in immigration detention before they were finally detained as suspects in the Boardwalk robbery.

Prosecutor mr. Ridderbeks was not impressed.

“If the police are not allowed to start looking for suspects based on vague information just after several robberies have been committed then I will give up my job,” she said.

The prosecutor added that mr. Hatzmann should have addressed his concerns with the Judge of Instruction. The attorney said he had done this, but that the Judge of Instruction did not accept his arguments.

Judge Keppels ruled that Hatzmann’s request to declare the prosecution inadmissible was “untimely.” She considered the arrests lawful, based on the decision by the Judge of Instruction, and said that the question whether evidence had been obtained unlawfully would have to be addressed at a later stage.

Because the defendants called on their right to remain silent, Judge Keppels presented the main topics from the case file. It appears that the robbery-victims had been walking on the Board walk near the small pier when they were accosted by three men and robbed of their possession like cell phones a camera, a small backpack and cash. The plaintiff later recognized defendants Romaine W. and Kietdaro L. in a photo confrontation. He did not recognize the third defendant.

Prosecutor Ridderbeks found in this recognition as well as in the statements both defendants made to police sufficient evidence for their guilt and she demanded a 3 year prison term.

mr. Hatzmann maintained his formal defense and the argument that evidence had been obtained unlawfully in the hotel room.

“Something has been confiscated under Romaine W. How can that be linked to my clients? Maybe the statement by Kietdaro is the beginning of a confession, but it is not enough for a conviction he said.

mr. Hatzmann said that his clients had been on the scene but that they had not taken part actively in the robbery. He asked the court to acquit both defendants.

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