PHILIPSBURG–The Joint Court of Justice, on Thursday, reopened several appeal cases to hear the suspects explaining their personal circumstances post Hurricane Irma. All these suspects will have to wait until November 23, to learn if their circumstances may lead to the Court imposing a lesser sentence or not.
Through an interim judgement rendered September 20, the Joint Court reopened the investigations in these cases due to the passing of Irma, as the circumstances of the suspects may have changed considerably.
Another reason for the interim judgements was the fact that the public nature of the verdicts could not be guaranteed due to the damage sustained by the Courthouse in Philipsburg. There was also no guarantee at that moment that the suspects and their lawyers could have attended their trials in Curaçao or communicate via video link due to the limited communications and travel possibilities at that time.
The hearings took place yesterday by means of a direct visual and audio connection with the St. Maarten Courthouse.
The first suspect to appear before the Joint Court judges in this manner was Fileto A. Rombley (25). He appealed his conviction of 15 months, five of which were suspended, on two years’ probation, for possession of an illegal firearm on September 21, 2016.
Rombley informed the Court that his wooden house, in which he lived with his girlfriend and their two-month old son, was blown away. He is currently trying to secure a US $5,000 loan with a local bank to rebuild his home in concrete. In the meantime, they are residing with his girlfriend’s aunt against payment of a small amount in rent. He said he retained his full-time job and will be volunteering again in the soup kitchen, which was also damaged, but is slated to reopen in a tent on St. Maarten Day, November 11.
Insurance company agent Christopher F. Bergland (30), who was sentenced by the Court of First Instance to 120 hours of community service for causing a fatal traffic accident on W.A. Nisbeth Road on May 12, 2015, told the Court he had gone through some “rough” times.
“Irma” left his house damaged, Bergland explained. “A lot of water came in the house and the car was damaged as well. My mother suffers from pressure,” he said. There is little time for him to fix the house as he is working long hours, including during weekends, for his employer, the largest insurance company on the island.
Despite these circumstances, the Solicitor General persisted in his demand of 240 hours of community service, and a one-year driving ban.
Bergland’s lawyer, Brenda Brooks, who’s law office was destroyed by Irma, also persisted in calling for fewer hours of community service.
The Solicitor General also saw no grounds to deviate from his demand of 12 months, three of which are to be suspended, on two years’ probation, for Dedrick R. van Putten (35) for a home burglary committed five years ago.
Lawyer Geert Hatzmann said this concerned a very old case. In pointing at the difficult circumstances at Pointe Blanche prison he recommended to the Court to impose community service.
The waste-management supervisor informed the Appellate Court that he completely lost his house in which he lived with his girlfriend and their three children.
In February 2016, the Court of First Instance sentenced Kevyn M. Cohen to six months of imprisonment, three of which were suspended, on two years of probation and 120 hours of community service for causing a fatal road accident on April 16, 2015, that took the life of 53-year old Rotary President Ramesh Bhagwandas Manek. The Court also revoked Cohen’s driver’s license for nine months.
Cohen told the Court that his house in Almond Grove was damaged. “I lost part of the roof. It is wet, but it is okay. I fixed the damage step by step,” he said.
His wife and two children were evacuated and are currently staying with grandparents in France. Cohen is still working at adult club Platinum Room, which reopened two weeks ago.
Attorney Paula Janssen wondered whether it would still be useful to lock up her client up, considering the “extreme inhumane” conditions in prison. The Solicitor General saw no reasons in the suspect’s personal circumstances to change his demand.