Hapless armed robber sentenced to 36 months

POSTED: 07/25/13 1:00 PM

St. Maarten – “The reasons why you took part in this robbery are sad, but they are no justification,” Judge Mr. Tamara Tijhuis told 25-year old Don Joseph Junior Leogal yesterday in the Court in First Instance before sentencing him to 36 months imprisonment for his role in an armed robbery at the Golden Island Chinese restaurant on April 6 of this year. Of the sentence, 6 months are suspended and the court imposed 2 years of probation. The sentence is lower than prosecutor Mr. Tineke Kamps’ demand of 44 months imprisonment.

The defendant told the court that he had “no job, no money, and a child on the way” when he decided to join two others for the robbery that yielded an undisclosed amount of money, cell phones and some phone cards.

The victims reported that three armed and masked men had entered the restaurant. Customers were frightened out of their wits after one of the robbers grabbed one of them in a chokehold and dragged him of his chair to the kitchen, where he hit someone on the head with his weapon.

By the time the robbers fled, the police was already on to them, and Leogal was the one officers managed to arrest, after firing a warning shot. He had a bag in his possession containing money, cell phones and a firearm.

The defendant told investigators that a man nicknamed Fathead had come with the plan for the robbery. He denied that the weapon officers found in the bag was his, or that he had used a weapon during the robbery. Video footage supports this statement.

“In the meantime one of the co-suspects has been arrested,” prosecutor Kamps said, adding that a DNA-test showed the defendant could not be linked to any other armed robberies. “His papers had expired, he had no house, he slept on the beach and he was begging for food,” she described Leogal’s dire situation.

“The restaurant’s customers were very frightened,” the prosecutor said. “The robbers did not take all that much, and the defendant has confessed his involvement. Up to a point he has cooperated with the investigation.”

Statements from the victims, witnesses in the restaurant, the report about Leogal’s arrest and the video footage all support the evidence against the defendant, the prosecutor said. She deviated from the standard punishment of 4 years for armed robberies because the defendant is a first offender, and demanded 4 years imprisonment.

“Given the fact that the defendant is illegal I see no point in making part of the sentence conditional,” Mr. Kamps said.

Attorney Mr. Zylena Bary pointed out that het client had cooperated with the investigation, but that it is no wonder that he could say little about the other robbers. “They don’t introduce themselves with an excerpt from the census office or a birth certificate. They go by nicknames,” she said.

The attorney also pointed out that her client did not know what was in the bag, or that the other robbers would use weapons. She contested the prosecutor’s position that making part of the punishment conditional does not make sense. “He is a first offender, and his mother lives here, he has family here.” Mr. Bary asked the court to make part of the sentence conditional.

Judge Tijhuis did just that.  She ruled that the charges are proven. “The reasons you did this are sad, but not a justification. You should have found another solution for your problems.”

The judge considered that Leogal is a first offender, that he cooperated with the investigation and that the acts of violence cannot be specifically attributed to him, “though you did contribute to the fact that this happened.”


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