PHILIPSBURG–The police arrested some seventy to eighty looters in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, attorney-at-law Geert Hatzmann said during Thursday’s criminal sitting of the Court of First Instance. Six persons suspected of looting or the misappropriation of stolen goods appeared before a Judge yesterday. Four of them were convicted, while two suspects were acquitted of all charges.
Violet A. John-Lawrence (59) received the highest penalty: six weeks’ imprisonment. The Prosecutor had requested two months in jail.
A large amount of jewellery, watches, shoes, shirts, lingerie and tablecloths were stashed away in a big suitcase at the woman’s house on Mt. William Hill Drive.
The Judge did not buy the woman’s story that most of the items were presents from her “sisters” at the church. The woman also said she had received some clothes as a donation after Hurricane Irma had blown away the largest part of her house.
The 1½-page list of misappropriated goods also included an electric stove and a deep-frying pan. Most of the items had the price tags still attached.
The woman, who had worked at a supermarket for 17 years and was dismissed just before the hurricane, and her husband, who will stand trial at a later date, could not provide valid explanations about the origins of the goods.
The Prosecutor said that looters like John had made storeowners’ matters only worse after Hurricane Irma devastated the island. “Crimes like these deserve a tough approach,” the Prosecutor said in calling for two months’ imprisonment.
Lance L. Marcellin (32) was found guilty of misappropriation of a drill that belonged to Kooyman hardware store. The Court did not find it proven that he had also taken a circular saw and a saw table. He was sentenced to four weeks.
The defendant tried to convince the Court that he had found the drill in a bag on the street. But even if that were true, he should have taken the tool to the police station, because he should have known that looting was widespread in the aftermath of the hurricane. Therefore, he should have known that the drill was probably stolen, the Judge reasoned.
Evangelista Vasquez Jorge (51), who spent three days in pre-trial detention, was also sentenced to four weeks for misappropriation of some shoes, clothing and a bag, and for the embezzlement of two chairs belonging to Budget Marine.
The Prosecutor did not find it proven that the woman had stolen the items, but “you only thought about yourself, and not about the store from which these items were taken,” the Judge said.
Esmeley R. Silvania (30) will have to perform 120 hours of community service, or spend 60 days in jail in case of non-compliance, for taking away goods belonging to Cost-U-Less, Home Center and Carrefour. After the hurricane she had taken her car and loaded it with two power washers, tennis rackets, bathmats, toys and bedsheets.
The unemployed hotel worker was also sentenced to six weeks suspended, on two years’ probation.
She told the Judge she had gone out to get food for her four young children, who are between two and 12 years old.
“You don’t need those items to survive,” the Judge told the defendant, who claimed that she had heard on the street that stores were giving away items from free.
The Prosecutor said the woman’s “shopping spree” was totally unacceptable. “She acted out of greed and contributed to social unrest.”
Suspects O.M. (52) and her husband H.A. (31) were both acquitted. The Prosecutor called for four weeks each for fencing. However, the Judge did not find it legally and convincingly proven that the secondary-school teacher and her spouse had stolen or misappropriated a generator, a washing machine, three boxes of wine and champagne, and some batteries.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/70864-four-convictions-and-two-acquittals-in-looting-cases