Prosecution demands 18 years against absent serial robber

POSTED: 11/8/12 2:08 PM

St. Maarten – Leon Shaphan Olson G. will go to jail for 18 years for a series of 16 armed robberies he committed between October 24 of last year and February 17 if it is up to prosecutor Mr. Dounia Benammar. The defendant’s attorney Mr. Nerissa de la Rosa asked the Court in first Instance yesterday to acquit her client. Judge Mr. Tamara Tijhuis will pronounce her verdict on November 28.

G. was not present at the court case. He was arrested on February 18 and released in April at the orders of the Judge of Instruction because from his place of detention in Simpson Bay he did not get to participate in the day program at the Pointe Blanche prison. G. was subsequently deported to his native St. Kitts where he soon became the victim of a shooting. He did not return to the island to attend his trial.

G. was stopped during a traffic control on February 18; when officers found a firearm a passenger attempted to drop unobtrusively from the car he was arrested and soon started confessing to the robberies.

Mr. de la Rosa announced that her client wished to withdraw his confessions, saying that he had made the statements because he was illegally in St. Maarten and that he did not want to return to St. Kitts. “Shortly after his return to St. Kitts he was shot at. It almost cost him his life,” the attorney said.

Leon G. confessed to armed robberies at the Jiabo supermarket in Fort Willem on October 24 of last year, Jay’s Dollar Store on December 9, the Golden Ocean supermarket on December 17, the Ho supermarket on December 29 and 30, and the St. Peters supermarket on January 11. Nine other robberies the defendant confessed to were added ad informandum to the charges. The loot from all robberies combined is estimated at $3,150.

Prosecutor Benammar reacted in disbelief to the attorney’s announcement that the defendant withdrew his confession to all robberies. “That is not possible if you confess to seventeen crimes. You are found at one location and seen at another one. I am not buying that. If that is so he will have to come here and explain why all these accusations are incorrect.”

The prosecutor objected to the withdrawal of the confessions and wondered whether under these circumstances the attorney was authorized to speak on behalf of her client.

“This defendant is 20 years old; he had problems in St. Kitts and came to St. Maarten to get away from that situation. He has only spent a short time on the island but he was a plague for retailers. Every time he kept robbing the same supermarkets. He deserves a high sentence.”

Mr. Benammar said that the effect of a robbery on victim is unimaginable. She demanded 18 years imprisonment and asked the court to order G.’s arrest at sentencing. She also announced a procedure to seize assets from the defendant.

Mr. De la Rosa said that her client’s arrest during the traffic control had been unlawful, because there was no reasonable suspicion that he was driving without a license. “He just made a youthful impression.” If the traffic control was unlawful, the attorney reasoned, her client’s arrest was also unlawful. “The statements that were obtained after his arrest have to be excluded from evidence. Then there is no evidence and my client has to be acquitted.”

The attorney said that the case file does not show that her client was recognized by any of the robbery victims.

Mr. Benammar countered that there is nothing wrong with the arrest, because police officers do not need a reasonable suspicion to stop someone for a traffic control. “They found the firearm and that is why he was finally arrested,” she said.

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