PHILIPSBURG–Director of 721 News website Gromyko Wilson was sentenced to forty hours of community service, twenty of which were suspended, on two years’ probation, for insulting on-duty police officers. The Court found it proven Wednesday that Wilson (47), also known as “The Real Paparazzi,” committed this crime on August 13, while reporting on a fatal traffic accident at L.B. Scott Road.
Wilson had been summoned to appear before a Judge to answer charges of insult, exertion of violence against on-duty police officers and disobedience of police orders. After Wednesday’s hearing, however, the Judge only found the insults, which included defamatory Facebook posts, proven.
According to a police report, Wilson allegedly declined to follow police orders and disregarded a police barrier tape reading, “Police line, do not cross,” at the scene of the accident. He refused to comply with orders to stand behind the barrier tape and to give the emergency services some room, the police said.
According to the indictment, Wilson had called out to two Dutch police officers on the scene, telling them: “Motherf******, Dutch police think they can do what they want. It
does not work like that over here, you don’t know who I am. You will be back in the plane to the Netherlands tomorrow,” and “You do not decide where I stand and what I do.”
He was arrested and allegedly resisted the two officers who wanted to take him to the police station by starting a fight with them. According to one of the officers, Wilson injured his left index finger and scratched his right arm and hand. Wilson was also injured during the altercation and was treated at St. Maarten Medical Center.
The Prosecutor said that contrary to what the suspect may think, this case was not about the rights of the media, or about oppression by the Dutch, but about respect.
“It’s about what’s right. And what’s decent. About what is morally acceptable in St. Maarten, all things the suspect showed very little knowledge of in his behaviour on August 13, 2018,” the Prosecutor stated.
The victim was 20 years old when he died in the car crash and he had family and friends around him who miss him. “Those people didn’t want to see his dismembered body on Facebook. They didn’t want to hear of his death through a live broadcast on 721 News. Be that as it may, 10,826 people viewed the photo of the remains of his car…and 186 people liked that…Welcome to Facebook, a social media platform that has made the world smaller but has a dark side when people don’t respect limits.”
In his closing speech, the Prosecutor said the news director had failed to show respect for a boy’s privacy, even after he had lost his life; respect for the bereaved who were confronted with a tremendous loss; respect for emergency services who had rushed to the scene who attempted to save someone’s life and respect for police officers who are usually first on the scene and needed to bring the news of the young man’s death to his next of kin. “There are limits, even for journalists,” the Prosecutor concluded, in demanding 80 hours of community service.
Wilson showed the Judge two large drone-photographs and video images made at the scene to convince the Judge that he had not disobeyed police orders and had not crossed the “yellow line.” The paparazzi, who has a 20-year career in journalism, told the Judge that the police is always under the impression that the media are interrupting their work.
He told the Judge that after a brief discussion – during which he admitted he had used some expletives as he was irritated and outraged – he had complied with the request and had left the public road and taken position on a private property.
His lawyer Shaira Bommel said this case had nothing to do with the fatal traffic accident, but everything with a confrontation between her client and the police while he was doing his work as a reporter. Bommel said he had acted out of frustration and should be acquitted of all charges.
Wilson, who was fully dressed in white, became quite emotional in his final word. “The public is always the victim in cases against the police,” he said. “The police are doing it wrong. When the public takes justice into their own hands, the public gets prosecuted but when there is police brutality you hear nothing about the case anymore.” Wilson offered his apologies for the insults, “but I have emotions too,” he told the Judge.
After weighing all the evidence, including the video images, the Judge arrived at the conclusion that Wilson had listened to the police and had observed and filmed the proceedings from a distance.
Without any warning and without him crossing the line, an officer had grabbed Wilson and had removed him from the scene, the Judge said. He was, therefore, acquitted of all charges, except for the insult of police officers and libel charges.
The Judge said Wilson deserved punishment as he had been misbehaving himself and should have shown respect to the police.