Ill-treated gun-owner gets off with lighter sentence

POSTED: 12/22/14 12:04 AM

St. Maarten – Leon Alfred Didder found some reprieve in the Court in First Instance after the prosecution demanded 18 months of imprisonment against him for firearm possession. Judge Rick Smid noted that the standard for this crime is 18-6 (18 months, with 6 months suspended), but he sentenced the defendant to 18 months imprisonment with 12 months suspended and 3 years of probation.

The reason for the lighter sentence is that Didder was so seriously ill-treated after his arrest that the National Detective Agency is looking into the matter.

The 24-year-old was driving a scooter without a license plate on October 1 without wearing a helmet, and carrying a Smith&Wesson handgun in the waistband of his trousers.

Police stopped him, but then Didder attempted to drive away, almost running over one of the police officers.

The defendant told the court that he had been shot at once, and that he had the gun for protection, though he had no intention of using it.

Prosecutor Karola van Nie considered the charge proven. Didder had fourteen rounds of live ammunition on him. “This happened in bright daylight, around 1 p.m.,” Van Nie said. “The weapon was ready for use and allegedly for self-defense. I do not know in which circles this defendant lives that he thinks he needs a gun to defend himself.”

Van Nie demanded 18 months of imprisonment.

Attorney Shaira Bommel acknowledged the facts and said that it could not be justified. She liked her client’s situation to a similar case whereby the defendant had received a wholly conditional sentence.

“My client has been seriously ill-treated at the police station. The explanation was that he attempted to flee,” Bommel said, adding that in the same week there had been other complaints against the same police officer.

Van Nie noted that this incident is the subject of an investigation by the National Detective Agency.

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