Settling a score could send young man to jail for 4 years

POSTED: 01/11/13 12:04 PM

St. Maarten – Prosecutor Georges van den Eshof demanded 4 years imprisonment against Ricardo Leopold M. yesterday for robbing a man who owed him money from his gold necklace at the Christina Bar on Mount William Hill on March 2 of last year. The defendant’s attorney, Brenda Brooks asked the court to acquit her client. Sentencing was set for January 30.

The 22-year-old defendant allegedly went to the bar on the day before the incident to check out his target. The next day he came back with Terry Constant, who in the meantime was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment (with 2 years suspended) for his role. M. told the court yesterday that he had dropped Constant off at the bar and that he left; upon his return he saw his friend in a fight with “a man who was stabbing him” and that he came to his rescue.

Witnesses tell a different story though. They told investigators that M. came to the bar the day before the incident and that he returned the next day with Constant. Both men went into the bar to their victim.

Constant told the police that M. has asked him to come along “to collect money from someone,” adding, “if he does not pay I am going to take his necklace.”

The defendant denied in court that he had a gun or that he had carried a gun on the day in question, even though witnesses told investigators that they had seen one of the two robbers enter the bar holding a firearm.

Prosecutor Van den Eshof told the court that this is a case of a reasonable brutal robbery. “When they entered the bar they pushed one woman aside, while another woman came in between the robbers and the victim to protect him.”

The victim pulled a knife to protect himself and in the fight that followed constant and M. both sustained injuries. According to the victim, M. hit him on his head with a gun – reason for the prosecution to charge him also with gun possession. “We have three similar statements from witnesses, and statements from the defendant and Constant who blame each other,” the prosecutor noted. “It is a shame that they are not on trial together. In that case I could have asked the real robber to stand up.”

The prosecutor held it against the defendant that he denied the charges and that he showed no regrets, while he seems to have been the initiator for the confrontation.

Attorney Brooks said there is no proof for the firearm charge. “My client voluntarily gave DNA. He wants an investigation to prove that he never handled the gun but this has not happened.”

mr. Brooks said that proving complicity requires close and conscious collaboration and that this does not appear from the case file.

M. was arrested on September 28, months after the robbery because he has stayed out of reach on the French side of the island. He spent 104 days in pre-trial custody and he has no criminal record.

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