~ “It was him or me,” posted rapper via Facebook ~
PHILIPSBURG–The Oro Diamante criminal case started on Wednesday morning at the heavily guarded Belair Community Centre, which served as a temporary Courthouse for security reasons.
The four suspects in the Oro Diamante investigation appeared at the trial. The two main suspects faced charges of armed robbery and murder, attempted murder and manslaughter of two police officers, and illegal fire-arm possession.
The Prosecutor’s Office requested a lifeprisonsentence for R.D. and 25 years in prison for J.L.forarmed robbery and the fatal shooting of the late Police Officer Gamali Benjamin.
The first main suspect in this case, R.D. (24), a local rapper who goes by the name of Kilo Gotti, was arrested after shooting Bike Patrol Officer Benjamin in his attempt to escape while trying to rob jewellery store Oro Diamante on August 5, 2015. Benjamin was the first St. Maarten police officer to die on duty.
The second main suspect is J.L who committed the robbery with Gotti.
The case of the two other suspects, O.A.C. (34) and M.H.A. (35), was moved to today, Thursday, as the judge needed more time to handle the case of the two main suspects. O.A.C. and M.H.A. are charged with complicity in the armed robbery and in preparing the alleged crime.
Gotti called L., the day before the fatal shooting on August 4, and asked him if he was interested in committing a robbery in town. They knew each other from prison. Both were released from prison in November 2014 after they were acquitted of robbery charges. L. agreed to the robbery plan because they needed the money.
Gotti picked L. up by motor vehicle in Cole Bay the morning of August 5. The two drove to Sucker Garden to one of the accused co-conspirators and collected clothing and a hammer that they ultimately used in the robbery. They picked up a stolen bike and reportedly used it during the robbery. When they arrived at the targeted store, they stopped right in front and walked into the store with their helmets on and an extra layer of clothing to prevent recognition.
L. walked with the hammer and Gotti had the gun, telling everyone in the establishment to sit down on the floor. They both grabbed as much jewellery as they could, filling their pockets. The sound of the breaking glass was loud and heard by many passersby outside the store. This sound led the Bike Patrol consisting of Benjamin and Officer Carti to the scene.
Benjamin was there first. He was across the street and shouted, “Freeze.” According to the Prosecutor, Gotti gave Benjamin no chance and shot at him, which resulted in the officer falling to the ground.
Gotti fired his gun 11 times while exiting the building and shooting at the police.
One shot struck the reserve magazine holder attached to Benjamin’s belt, one hit his arm, another hit his leg and the fatal blow was to his head, penetrating his skull and entering his brain. Benjamin fell and Gotti continued shooting.
The two suspects reportedly threw the motorbike against the gate of the Courthouse and tried to escape on foot. Each removed his shirt and vest in an effort to alter his appearance.
Officer Carti pursued Gotti and managed to injure him during the crossfire. Gotti could outrun the Officer no longer due to his injuries and was arrested near the old fire station in Philipsburg, while L. managed to get away on a bus.
While nursing his wound at St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) Gotti was interrogated immediately about the crime he had committed. He told investigators: “You are all detectives, detect and when you coming back, walk with my release papers.” During the entire eight months in prison Gotti never broke his silence about what had happened on August 5. However, L. cooperated with investigators and gave two different versions of what took place on that day.
The self-proclaimed rapper was born in St. Maarten to undocumented Haitian parents, leaving him without any way of obtaining legal residence on the island. His mother was deported when he was six years old and the relationship with his father has always been distant.
Gotti reportedly has never had a place to call home and went from friends’ and relatives’ homes on a weekly basis. He is well known to the local authorities and the Justice system because of his arrest in 2010 for a burglary case that was dismissed due to lack of evidence.
On November 20, the Prosecutor demanded 15 months in prison for Gotti for snatching a chain. However, the judge gave him the benefit of the doubt and he was acquitted. On January 3, while in jail, the rapper managed to obtain a phone and posted three pictures of himself, one with the text “Welcome to St. Murda,” one with the text “Don’t kill me … Kill the Police,” and the most disturbing one “Money New Year, F… the Police.”
Gotti responded to the Prosecutor by stating that those posts on Facebook had been just for show and he had not meant anything by them. He had gone as far as posting “him or me,” meaning that he had had to shoot the officer in fear for his life. He responded to the accusations against him by telling the judge he had tried to impress his fans because ladies responded to rude boys, and said he now knew that it had been a bad decision to post about his crime.
For L. there are elements that weigh positively for his sentence, said Prosecutor Karola van Nie. L. did not fire the gun and at one point he cooperated with the police. He gave statements about his role and Gotti’s. L. also showed remorse and showed that he realises that his part in the crime is serious. The Prosecutor still believes he is responsible for the very severe crimes.
Although L. saw two police officers down, he chose to flee with Gotti. He chose to go into hiding for five days and sell the jewellery he had stolen by using such brute force.
According to a court-appointed psychologist, there is an above-average to large chance that L. will repeat his behaviour and commit more crimes. This is why the Prosecutor decided to request 25 years for suspect L.
The judge will give her verdict on May 4 at 10:00am.
Who is Fish?
One name that came up during the course of Wednesday’s trial was the name “Fish.” According to the two main suspects, a man who calls himself Fish contacted them and ordered the robbery of the jewellery store. Gotti said he had had financial issues and had been contacted by Fish to rob the establishment. Gotti contacted L. who also was looking for a quick buck. However, the two have different stories of why and how they ended up robbing the jewellery store.
Suspect L. remained mum about how he had met Fish and the overall plan, while Gotti said he knew neither the man’s real name man nor where he lives.
Prosecutor van Nie said the story about the so-called Fish was hard to believe and that the two suspects had made him up when they met in the Pointe Blanche prison.
“We have established that the criminal charges against both suspects are legally and convincingly proven. Both suspects are also fully accountable for their crimes. L. had a psychological evaluation and was found fully accountable. D. [Gotti – Ed.] had both a psychological and psychiatric evaluation and was also found fully accountable. Both suspects are therefore punishable by law,” said Van Nie.
The late officer’s family was present and gave the judge a letter stating that their lives would never be the same because of losing their beloved Benjamin. He was his family’s sole provider and they are faced with having to move on without him. His son also will have to grow up without a father and that can never change, stated the family in the written note.
In his final statement to the court, Gotti told the family he was sorry for what had happened and had never meant to kill anybody. He said he hoped that one day they can find it in their hearts to forgive him for what he had done. He said one bad decision had ended up in a bad situation.
The judge closed the proceedings and said she would render the verdict in his case on the same day as suspect L., May 4, at 10:00am.
Source: Daily Herald Life sentence requested for Oro Diamante triggerman