Post-Irma looters appeal sentences

PHILIPSBURG–The Joint Court of Justice on Thursday heard the cases of five persons who appealed their sentences for looting in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017.

Rafea F. El Attrache (73), his wife Siham Nofal and their 16-year-old son were among those filing for appeal. Both parents were sentenced to three months by the Court of First Instance for the misappropriation of stolen goods.
Their son received six months of juvenile detention, four of which were suspended, for fencing and for possession of an illegal firearm and a large quantity of ammunition.
A large quantity of items stolen from Boolchand’s and Helena Jewellers on Front Street with a total value of approximately US $200,000 were found stashed away in suitcases in El Attrache’s home.
The parents admitted that the suitcases belonged to them, but claimed they did not know about the contents. Their son confessed and said he had found all these items, including the firearm with ammunition, on Boardwalk Boulevard.
His parents had told the Parole Board that their son does not listen to them and that he hangs out with the wrong type of people.
The Solicitor-General called for confirmation of the verdicts, adding that he did not believe the parents’ statements, considering that one literally “stumbled over the stolen property” at their house.
According to attorney Geert Hatzmann, the couple’s eldest son was the first responsible for the “robber’s den,” as the Prosecutor described their house in the Court of First Instance. The lawyer said father El Attrache looks the other way, while the mother has no influence in her family whatsoever.
Hatzmann called for the parents’ acquittal or for dismissal of all their prosecution because sending people to prison who were the victims of circumstances should be not done, he said.
Hatzmann said the son had allowed himself to be carried away and is now confronted with prison time. He called on the Court to sentence the juvenile to community service with a “stiff” conditional sentence.
Violet A. John-Lawrence (60) received six weeks’ imprisonment from the Court of First Instance on November 9, 2017. The Prosecutor had requested two months.
A large amount of jewellery, watches, shoes, shirts, lingerie and tablecloths, most of which with price tags attached, were found stashed away in a big suitcase at the woman’s house on Mt. William Hill Drive.
The lesser Court did not believe the woman’s story that most of the items were presents from her “sisters” at the church. The woman also said she had received clothes as a donation after Hurricane Irma had blown away the largest part of her house.
The Appeals Court Judges asked some critical questions about the origin of these goods, as it concerned expensive brand clothing.
The 1½-page list of misappropriated goods also included an electric stove and a deep-frying pan. 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 lesser Court stated last year.
The Solicitor-General considered the case proven and called on the Court of Appeals to sentence the woman to two months.
Evangelista Vasquez Jorge (51), who spent three days in pre-trial detention, was sentenced in November 2017 to four weeks for misappropriation of sneakers, clothing and a bag, and for the embezzlement of two chairs belonging to a store next to Budget Marine.
The woman claimed she had kept the bag with the shoes and clothes for a man who had lost his house during the hurricane and said she had obtained permission to take the chairs from the roadside outside the store.
The Solicitor-General called for confirmation of the initial verdict, including the four-week prison term.
The Court of Appeals with render its judgments in all these cases at 1:45pm May 24.

Source: The Daily Herald