Vincent Hanley being led to court for his trial on robbery and gun charges earlier this month. (File photo)
PHILIPSBURG–Vincent Obadiah Hanley (37) was sentenced by the Court of First Instance on Thursday to eight years in prison for the armed robbery of two restaurants and the attempted armed robbery of a casino in October 2019. He was also found guilty of gun possession.
This is his third conviction on robbery charges spanning the last 22 years.
On Thursday, the Court found it legally proven that Hanley was part of a gang of three men who planned and executed the robberies of Oasis Restaurant on October 15, 2019, and Francis Bar on October 17, 2019, and who tried to rob Rouge et Noir Casino on October 17, 2019.
In the first incident, two men dressed in black and brandishing a ﬁrearm threatened the workers of the establishment and took an undisclosed amount of cash out of the register. The suspects also robbed persons who were at the restaurant.
The two robbers used the same modus operandi in the Francis Bar robbery – threatening workers at gunpoint, demanding cash from the register and robbing patrons of their possessions.
In total, the robbers made off with two chains and about US $1,600 in cash from these two crimes.
After successfully robbing the restaurants, the gang turned their eyes towards Rouge et Noir Casino in Philipsburg.
This time it was three armed men dressed in black hooded sweatshirts and wearing face masks that stormed into the casino on the night of October 17, 2019. The robbers similarly threatened the casino workers at gunpoint and demanded cash. However, the robbers could not get any, and fled the establishment empty-handed.
What linked the three robberies was the getaway vehicle, which witnesses said was a white Toyota Yaris.
A police patrol spotted the suspect vehicle on A.Th. Illidge Road near Over the Pond minutes after the casino robbery. When police tried to pull over the vehicle, the suspects would not comply, leading police on a high-speed chase. Ofﬁcers shot at the vehicle in an attempt to apprehend the perpetrators. The suspects abandoned the car on Arch Road and fled on foot. Police were unable to apprehend any of them that night.
Investigation into the getaway vehicle revealed that Hanley had rented it on October 14, 2019 – one day before the first robbery. He extended the lease on October 15, 2019. His DNA was found on the car’s steering wheel and door handles, as well as on the duct tape used to conceal the licence plate.
During the trial on October 9, 2020, the prosecutor demanded 12 years imprisonment for the three robberies.
Besides the DNA evidence, clothes and eyewear like those one of the robbers was wearing in the casino robbery were found in a search of Hanley’s home. The prosecutor also pointed to the changing statements Hanley gave to police about the car.
Although it cannot be determined that Hanley was one of the two robbers that knocked off the restaurants, he told police he was in the area around the time, which meant that he was acting as a “lookout”, argued the prosecutor.
Hanley denied any involvement in the three robberies during the trial. He told the judge he did rent the car, but had then rented it to someone else to make some additional money. However, he did not identify the person who rented the vehicle from him. He said he feared retaliation if he snitched.
In demanding Hanley’s acquittal, attorney-at-law Shaira Bommel questioned the reliability of witness testimony, saying that some witnesses had not given a clear description of the getaway vehicle or how the suspects had fled.
She also tried to poke holes in the evidence found in his home. The clothes are too widely owned to prove his involvement in the crime, argued Bommel during the trial. “Half of St. Maarten has a bandana or a black hoodie.”
Hanley is no stranger to the justice system. His first run-in with the law came on October 5, 1998 – when he was only 15 years old.
Hanley and 14-year-old G.C. went into Vania’s Fine Jewellery store that afternoon, grabbed handfuls of jewellery and bolted. A police officer, who just happened to be passing by at that moment, ran after the pair and arrested them after a short chase.
About a decade later, Hanley was one of the ringleaders in a group of five men known as the “raping robbers”. The group perpetrated a series of armed robberies of private homes and businesses between August and November 2007.
These crimes included the rape of two Chinese girls, an American tourist and a bar waitress during three robberies. The group threatened their victims with revolvers, shotguns and machetes, beat them and tied them up, all while stealing a large number of items.
Hanley confessed to no fewer than 18 offences in this case and was sentenced in 2008 to 17 years in prison. He was released in February 2019 after serving 12 years.
“The suspect was only on parole for eight months when he again made a serious mistake,” said the Court in its verdict.
The Court did not believe Hanley’s story of being a rehabilitated man, who simply rented out a vehicle to the wrong person. “As a man with experience in this field, he knew exactly what was going to happen, and arranged and prepared a car for himself and his fellow perpetrators,” said the Court.
The Court also found it irrelevant that Hanley may not have been one of the two robbers in the restaurant robberies.
“The division of roles in the execution was more or less coincidental within the team of robbers: from preparation and execution to sharing the proceeds. Furthermore, the suspect had not been open about the case, so one cannot assume he had a lesser role in the crimes,” said the Court.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/third-conviction-for-repeat-robber