Gun possession nets regretful garage-owner conditional sentence

POSTED: 09/2/11 12:29 PM

St. Maarten – Desmond Anthony George, the 49-year old owner of the Man George garage in Madame Estate thought that the well-dressed man who entered his shop on April 1 and offered him the gun he had for sale, was a foreigner- but when he saw the same man later dressed shabbily, it dawned on him that he may have bought a Smith & Wesson 357 Magnum from a local drug addict.
Yesterday, George was in court to answer to charges of firearm possession – a criminal offence that carries a standard sentence of 12 months imprisonment. But prosecutor mr. M.L.P. Ridderbeks and Judge Mr. M. Keppels considered the special circumstances of the case, as well as the person of the garage-owner and gave him an 18 month conditional prison sentence, 2 years of probation and 102 hours of community service. The prosecution demanded 120 hours, but George received a reduction of two hours per day for each of the nine days he spent in a police cell between July 27 and August 5.
The man who offered the gun for sale in April had stolen the weapon from his father, who filed a complaint with the police when he suspected his drug-addicted son of having stolen it. George bought the weapon to protect his business, but in court he said that he had no idea how to handle a gun.
“This is a time where fear rules,” prosecutor Ridderbeks conceded. “But the excuses for buying the gun are still not valid. The defendant should have applied for a permit.”
Ridderbeks added that she believed George when he said that he had almost immediately regretted buying the weapon, and that his wife did not want to have anything to do with it. She noted that George runs his business also as a place where young people get an opportunity to train car mechanics. “The public prosecutor’s office is very strict where it concerns the firearms law,” she said. “But is this a defendant we have to send to Pointe Blanche?”
Ridderbeks concluded that this was not the case. “Twelve months unconditional would be a fitting punishment, but we are unable to execute it due to the lack of prison cells, and we are dealing here with a defendant who keeps young people off the streets.”
The prosecutor said that her demand must be read as a signal that violating the firearm legislation is in general a bad idea. She demanded 18 months conditional imprisonment with 2 years of probation and 120 hours of community service.
George’s attorney mr. A.A. Kraaijeveld said that his client had attempted to sell the gun back to the man who sold it to him, and that he had initially bought it out of fear for criminals who had already threatened him, while he also had been the victim of a burglary.
Judge Keppels considered the charge proven; the Judge followed the prosecutor’s demand and gave the defendant a reduction of 18 hours on his community service.

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