Scooter thief spent 23 days behind bars

POSTED: 08/30/16 8:47 AM

St.maarten – Scooter thief Garvin Clint Baptiste spent 23 days behind bars after police caught him with a stolen scooter on April 27 at the height of the Carnival celebrations on the island. This week, the Court in First Instance sentenced Baptiste to 3 months of imprisonment and 3 years of probation; only the 23 days he already served are unconditional and the remainder of the punishment remains in place conditional.

The scooter was reported stolen on the French side on March 31 and the owner spotted his scooter on Jouvert morning in Philipsburg. He went to the police and accompanied officers to his property. Baptiste was arrested on the spot.

The defendant claimed that he had borrowed the rather expensive scooter from a man called Michel near Le Grand Marché on Bush Road and that this presumed owner would pick up his scooter later on near the Carnival Village.

The court did not believe this explanation, because Baptiste was unable to provide a full name, phone number or address for Michel, while he had claimed that “everybody knows everybody on the island” and that this was the reason why Michel had so loosely lent him the scooter. It didn’t help that a police officer has seen Baptiste driving the scooter already for a couple of weeks.

In 2010, Baptiste was sentenced to 6 years of imprisonment for his role in two armed robberies a gang to which he belonged committed against groups of Indian citizens on Welgelegen Road. These days, he works for Checkmate Security, his attorney said later.

Prosecutor Danny Hazejager noted that the defendant had not expressed any regrets to the theft and that his statements could not be verified. He demanded a 3-month prison sentence, of which 23 days unconditional and the rest suspended with 3 years of probation.

Attorney Sjamira Roseburg gave Judge Dirk Gruijters an impression of what Philipsburg is like during Jouvert. “Everybody is there from 4 o’clock at night until noon.”

Roseburg noted that her client had made consistent statements and that he had borrowed the scooter, not knowing that it had been stolen. “After his arrest he asked the officers to go look for Michel in the Carnival Village but they told him he had to come with them.”

There is no proof that my client knew the scooter was stolen, the attorney said.

Judge Gruijters said that it makes sense to be careful when lending a vehicle. “And if you run into problems, you help the police to sort things out, but you did not do that. It cannot be all that difficult to track down Michel. Everyone knows everyone, your attorney says. This casts a heavy suspicion over you.”

That a police officer had seen Baptiste driving the scooter for weeks did it for the judge: “This makes that I do not believe your statements and I conclude that you were driving a stolen scooter.”

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