Vesuvius-trail nears its conclusion – Attorneys contest life sentences for gang leader and hit man

POSTED: 10/24/12 5:54 PM

St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – The third day of the Vesuvius-trial did not bring any additional fireworks or it must have been that the attorneys for alleged gang leader Omar J., his equally alleged hit man Carlos R. contested all charges and asked the court to acquit the defendants instead of giving them life imprisonment as the prosecution has demanded. “To demand a life sentence based on this case file is incomprehensible,” attorney mr. Marije Vaders said.
Attorney mr. Brenda Brooks made quite a show of her plea, sometimes laughing at statements made by the prosecution and even suggesting that the prosecution had used a scenario published on a local gossip website as the basis for its investigation and for the charges against the seven defendants. On Monday the first four defendants had their day in court with their attorneys. Tomorrow the prosecution will respond to the defense arguments, after which the attorneys get their second and final round. Judge mr. Rick Smid will then most likely pronounce his verdict on November 15.
Yesterday’s front page story about mr. Peggy Ann Brandon’s defense of 29-year-old Erno L. contained a typo, suggesting that the prosecution demands 20 years against him. This has to be 10 years.
mrs. Brooks and Marije Vaders jointly took on the defense of Omar J., Carlos R. and Doniel Th. yesterday. The court session lasted from 9.30 a.m. until around 4 p.m. with a short break for lunch.
The prosecution charges that Omar J. is the leader of a criminal organization and that he ordered the executions of Hector Miguel Arrindell, Rodolfo Arrindell, Eric Lake and Kevin Gumbs last year. He is also accused of attempted murder on Omax Bye, the man suspected of murdering Omar J.’s brother Amador on April 20 of last year. In all these shootings, Carlos R. is the alleged hit man, while Doniel Th. supposedly provided services like stealing cars and gathering information.
According to the prosecution, the motive for the killings is revenge for the murder of Amador Jones on April 16 of last year. That murder was supposedly ordered by Hector Miguel Arrindell after Jones stole 10 kilos of cocaine from him.
mrs. Brooks and Vaders attacked the credibility of witnesses, the accuracy of their statements, the use of unlawful tracking methods like infiltration and the recording confidential information, but they maintained above all that the prosecution had developed tunnel vision, that it had taken one scenario as the point of departure for its investigation and that it had turned a blind eye to other possibilities.
The attorneys pointed out that Hector Miguel Arrindell and his brother Rodolfo had been suspects in a large-scale cocaine-smuggling investigation, the notorious Snowflake case. Another suspect in that case was Brian Ch. who is currently serving a 20-year sentence for murder in Guadeloupe. Ch. is mentioned in court documents as one of the men who organized the murder of Amador Jones. When the brothers were arrested in the course of the Snowflake-investigation, detectives seized 170 kilos of cocaine from a house in Cole Bay. That cocaine allegedly belonged to a group of Colombian drug dealers. “Miguel Arrindell owed a million to the Colombians,” mr. Brooks said. “They had every reason to murder him.”
Miguel Arrindell was killed execution style on May 25 of last year, a day before he was scheduled to appear in court as a suspect in the Snowflake-trial. That case was postponed and later the court declared the prosecution inadmissible because an RST-officer had antedated a report in the case file. Rodolfo Arrindell was murdered on July 7.
mr. Brooks called the prosecution of her clients a witch hunt. Most of the evidence presented by the prosecution is based on hearsay and on anonymous witnesses,” she said.
mr. Vaders asked the court to declare the prosecution inadmissible for using tracking methods that had no legal basis at the time of the investigation. She also noted that the indictment against her clients is void because they have been issued in violation of the law.
“It is incomprehensible that the prosecution has acted in violation of the law. This has to result in inadmissibility. The defendants’ interests have been harmed and we were only informed in June about the use of these methods.”
Attorney Vaders said that witness statements have to be based on observations witnesses have made themselves, not on hearsay. “Most witnesses were heard in the period January to March. By then a lot of details about the investigation had already been published in the newspapers. That could contaminate those witness statements.”
Attorney Vaders asked the court to exclude from evidence anonymous witness statements and statements based on hearsay. She furthermore noted that “it is assumed just like that that Omar J. has given the orders for the killings.”
The attorney said that the weapons that were found in the bedroom of Omar J.’s grandmother belonged to his deceased grandfather and that he had no access to that room because his grandmother kept it locked. Other weapons belonged to his deceased brother Amador, she said.
The firearms possession charge is for the period November 16 to February 9. “During that time my clients were detained. How could they have those weapons at their disposal?” the attorney wondered.
mr. Vaders undermined the prosecution’s position that Omar J. went on a killing spree to take revenge for his brother’s murder. “Amador and Omar were not on speaking terms. They had not been speaking to each other for years.” A younger brother of Omar J. was shot to death in 2006, she added.
mr. Brooks said that it was “quite amazing” that her clients were charged with membership of a criminal organization. “Upon their arrest $25,000 was confiscated. That money has already been returned.”
mr. Vaders conceded for her client Doniel Th. – who is facing 9 years imprisonment – that he had had firearms in his possession. During a search of his home on November 16 of last year, investigators found a loaded .38 Remington revolver, a Mossberg hunting rifle and several rounds of ammunition.
She said that Th. denied that he had been part of meetings where the murder attempt on Omax Bye was discussed, or that he had anything to do with car theft.

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