For armed robberies, ill-treatment and gun possession – Prosecutor demands sturdy sentences against youngsters

POSTED: 03/28/13 12:42 PM

St. Maarten – Gilbert Ch. and Johan Alberto R. denied about everything, but that did not stop prosecutor Dounia Benammar from demanding sturdy prison sentences against them for a string of crimes dating back to March 12, 2011 that include robbery, ill-treatment and firearm possession.

Against 19-year-old Gilbert Ch. the prosecutor demanded 6 years of imprisonment, plus the execution of 18 months conditional from an earlier sentence because he had failed to do the community service that was a condition for not executing the sentence. Against 22-year-old Johan R. the prosecutor demanded 9 years of imprisonment. The court will pronounce its verdict on April 17.

Both defendants have already been in detention for approximately sixteen months since November 19 (R.) and November 21 (Ch.) 2011.

On March 12, 2011 Gilbert Ch. robbed a 19-year-old boy of his golden necklace under threat of a gun. On March 20 of that year, he ill-treated someone with a machete. Then, on June 20, he robbed a man at a pool bar together with co-defendant Johan R. of another golden necklace.

The piece of resistance in the charges is a robbery at the Jewels Are Forever jewelry store on Front Street on October 24, 2011.

Johan R. is also charged with two counts of firearm possession – one on July 16, 2011, and the second one on November 19 of the same year. R. confessed to the second charge, but denied the first one.

Both defendant denied most of the charges, and they even denied being aware of their nicknames – Gico for Gilbert Ch. and Crucial for Johan R. Both defendants also denied that they knew each other at the time of the crimes. Instead, they both claimed that they had met for the first time in November 2011 in the Pointe Blanche prison.

Judge Tamara Tijhuis read from the case file that a bandana that was found in a car shortly after the robbery at the pool bar contained R.’s DNA, while a cigarette butt in the ashtray contained Ch.’s DNA. The victim recognized Ch. as the robber, but the defendant protested, saying that this statement was made a year after the robbery.

The Jewels Are forever store was robbed on October 24, 2011 around 11.30 a.m. when three masked and armed men entered the store. One held a gun to the head of the store-owner – a modus operandi also reported by other robbery victims – while one man stayed near the door while the third helped himself to jewelry.

Derick Delan Wilson was sentenced for this robbery in November of last year to 30 months of imprisonment. Wilson made incriminating statements against both defendants.

Prosecutor Benammar considered all charges against the defendants proven. Attorney Brenda Brooks submitted to the court a statement from Leon Griffin designed to exonerate Johan R., but the prosecutor said that she did not see the value of this statement.

Prosecutor Bennamar said that both defendants each time had reverted to “actions of convenience for their own benefit.” She had little sympathy for the defendants: “I cannot stand this attitude of: I do nothing, I have no income, but I want what you have.”

Additionally, the prosecutor said to Johan R.: “Weapons possession is the plague of St. Maarten. They are constantly used to commit crimes.”

Both mr. Shaira Bommel, the attorney for Gilbert Ch., and Brenda Brooks, the attorney for Johan R. maintained that there is insufficient evidence to convict their clients and they asked the court for an acquittal. Johan R. confessed to firearm possession on November 19, 2011, Brooks said that he had already served his time for this offense.

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