US Retiree gets suspended sentence for importing five firearms into St. Maarten

POSTED: 06/22/14 11:06 PM

St. Maarten – James Matejicka retired to St. Maarten, but he found himself in a bit of a bind when he wanted to ship his belongings from the United States to the island in February of last year. The problem: among those belongings were five firearms for which Matejicka had a permit in the US – but not in St. Maarten. Yesterday the Court in First Instance sentenced him to a 1-year conditional prison sentence with 3 years of probation. The weapons remain confiscated.

“I have had three of these weapons for thirty years, and the other two for eight years. They have a lot of sentimental value for me,” the defendant told the court. Matejicka attempted to regulate the arrival of his weapons in St. Maarten with the Ministry of Justice, but the information he needed arrived days after the weapons had already landed at Princess Juliana International airport where  the customs department held them.

“I assumed it was legal,” the 62-year-old defendant told the court. “I provided all the information about my weapons, including their serial numbers. I tried to find out what I needed to bring them here. I was waiting for a background check by the police. The chief of police referred me to Mr. Duncan (at the time Minister of Justice – ed.). If I had known I could not bring them here I would have sold them in the United States. I have no problem meeting the requirements for a gun permit, but I did not think that I was breaking any laws.”

Prosecutor Tineke Kamps pointed out that everybody knows that gun laws in the United States differ from those in other countries, including St. Maarten. “We want as few firearms as possible on the island. It is easy to say for the defendant that he thought it was legal, but he should have waited for an answer from the Ministry of Justice.”

The prosecutor said that she understood the defendant’s circumstances. She demanded a 1-year conditional prison sentence with 3 years of probation and confiscation of the firearms.

Matejicka’s attorney Brenda Brooks said that after her client had filed a request for a permit, in June 2012 he was given the runaround. “Four months is a reasonable term for a decision about a request. My client asked a permit for five weapons. The former Chief Prosecutor Hans Mos told him that he could keep one weapon. How can that be? It is either legal, or illegal.”

Brooks said that her client had also proposed to ship the weapons back to the United States so that he could sell them there and she asked the court to reconsider this. “It is already bad enough that he has to break his emotional ties with his firearms.”

The court followed the prosecution’s demand and pointed out that importing weapons usually carries a higher penalty that just possessing a firearm. “You acted while there was no clarity. You say that you sold your house in the United States and that you had no choice but to ship the weapons to St. Maarten. That is a bit simple. You do not make an arrogant impression on me, but you did place yourself above the law. You are not allowed to have weapons without a permit. You should not act first and then ask for such a permit. The prosecutor’s office has made a proposal to you to deal with this matter without prosecution, but you did not want that.”


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