“Strong message: don’t touch our police force” Demand: life sentence for cop-killing rapperPOSTED: 04/15/16 9:08 PM
A policeman’s body shields rapper Kilo Gotti as he is led through a side entrance into the courtroom at the Belair community center. Photo Today / Milton Pieters
St. Maarten News – The tension was rising in the temporary courtroom in the Belair Community Center yesterday afternoon as the public prosecutor approached the end of her demand against the suspects who played a role in the death of Police Officer Gamali Benjamin on August 5 of last year. Ridge D., aka rapper Kilo Gotti, sat with a bowed head as the prosecutor demanded life imprisonment against him. Jovanny L., the 20-year-old who came up with the idea for a robbery at the Oro Diamanté jewelry store that ended with Benjamin’s death, faces a 25-year prison sentence. The court will pronounce the verdicts three weeks from now, on Wednesday May 4.
“It must be clear,” the prosecutor said, “”with the punishment I am about to ask the judge to impose, the prosecutor’s office is sending out a strong message: don’t touch our police force.”
The police force is highly dependent on the recruitment of young men and women fully committed and motivated to server their country and to protect our society, the prosecutor said. “We in return must do whatever it takes to back them up.”
Not only family and friends of the killed police officer suffer consequences from the robbery and subsequent shooting in August of last year, the prosecutor pointed out. “Oro Diamanté, its workers and manager that got a gun pointed at them, could do nothing else but helplessly witness what happened. That must have been a very traumatizing experience. The fact that this armed robbery was committed on a busy day and at a time when Front Street was filled with people, shows the brutality, the greed and the total disrespect for the possessions and the personal safety of others. It is a miracle that nobody else got injured.”
The prosecutor furthermore pointed out the importance of a firm stand against illegal gun possession. Ridge. D. had access to at least three different guns over a longer period of time, she said. “The conclusion is that for Ridge D., the punishment can only be the most severe. For the crimes he committed he deserves the maximum limited prison sentence, which is 30 years, or a life sentence. A lower sentence would not do justice to the crimes that were committed against officers of the law on that fatal day.”
The prosecutor considered the question whether the protection of the community requires that Ridge D. will never be released again or that there is any perspective that he will have changed in a positive way by the end of his sentence.
The prosecutor came to this conclusion: “There are only incriminating circumstances to be considered.”
That conclusion is first of all based on the fact that Ridge D. is not unknown to the police. In 2010 he was arrested for burglary, though the case was dismissed for lack of evidence. On November 20, 2014, the prosecution demanded 15 months against the rapper for chain snatching but the court gave him the benefit of the doubt and acquitted him.
Worse was the psychiatric evaluation that was conducted a few days before the trial. The psychiatrist concluded that Ridge D. “externalizes” his actions, that is to say that he thinks things happen to him, rather than acknowledging that he is causing the actions.
“D. knows his rights very well. He knows he may remain silent and he chose to do so. During the entire investigation he never showed any remorse, not to the police officers who came to question him and not towards the family of Benjamin,” the prosecutor said. “To us, he has not given any insight in who he is, why he did it and how he looks back on it.”
The prosecutor also referred to the photos Kilo Gotti posted on Facebook from his prison cell in January (see for details the related story: Freeze – The last word of police officer Benjamin).
“The message he is sending to us is that the life of a police officer means nothing to him. He is in fact using the killing of a cop to boost his reputation as a rap artist. Adding it to his list of crimes; maybe we should call him Done dat,” the prosecutor said with a reference to one of Kilo Gotti’s rap lyrics.
And with that, the prosecutor arrived at her conclusion that led to the demand for a life sentence: “If this crime, the killing of Benjamin, whom he actually knew and respected, did not already give him the ultimate reason to step away from his crime path, what will? His attitude after the crime destroys every hope of a positive change in the future.”
Jovanny L., the instigator of the armed robbery, also has an arrest for armed robbery to his name, dating back to 2014, but he was acquitted of the robbery at the Bamboo Garden restaurant in Cole Bay due to lack of evidence.
Unlike Kilo Gotti, Jovanny L. has several things playing in his favor, the prosecutor said. “He was not the one who fired the gun and he cooperated with the police. He made statements about his role and about that of D. He also showed remorse and realizes that his part in the crime is serious.”
Against him, of course, play the facts that he fled with D. when he saw two police officers down, he went into hiding and he sold some of the jewelry (for $2,500 to a man who will stand trial on a later date). Furthermore, a psychological evaluation shows that the risk that L. will commit new crimes in the future is “above average to large.”
Considering all circumstances the prosecutor demanded a hefty 25 years of imprisonment against him.