Two suspects deny attempted robbery of Prime Distributors

PHILIPSBURG–Two men suspected of the attempted robbery at Prime Distributors and E&G Brothers on December 8, 2016, vehemently denied the charges. They will learn their fate May 23.

Based on statements of witnesses and video-surveillance-camera images, the Prosecutor’s Office charged suspects S.L.H. (38) and R.F.A.Y. (33) with theft with violence, attempted extortion and with preparing a serious crime.

Security guards on the Prime Distributors premises saw two masked men armed with a firearm and a hammer approach on Orange Grove Road at approximately 4:15pm. When they found out they were being observed the two would-be robbers climbed over a fence and ran away.

H. and F. both tried to convince the Judge that they were not these two suspects. Both stated they had been working that December day, H. at a Cole Bay carwash and Y. doing a paint job on Well Road.

H. told the Judge it was not he on the camera images but someone with similar features. Y. admitted it was he who was caught on camera, but claimed he was not involved in the alleged crimes.

H. was also charged with three other crimes, to which he confessed. These charges involved possession of a firearm and 113 grams of marijuana, and fencing food items stolen from a supermarket “around the corner” in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in September/October 2017. The stolen items included fruit juices, bottles of wine, napkins and food containers.

H. said he had purchased the gun in February 2017 after two of his friends had disappeared and he got scared. He said the marijuana belonged to a girlfriend who used the drugs for medical reasons.

The Prosecutor found both suspects guilty as charged. Although attempted robbery could not be proven, both were considered guilty of preparing a robbery, he said.

The Prosecution built its case on the statements of witnesses and a police official who said she recognized H., as he had also been a suspect in a previous investigation.

The Prosecutor called for one year with deduction of 92 days already spent in pre-trial detention for Y, and 18 months with deduction of 86 days already spent for H.

Attorney-at-law Shaira Bommel started her pleadings by stating that both defendants had been acquitted in 2010 in a case “in which there were also doubts” about the police official’s statement that she had positively identified them.

Bommel called for H.’s acquittal of the attempted robbery charges, as his alleged involvement could only be derived from the camera images and “unreliable” witness’ statements. She pleaded for a lesser sentence equal to H.’s pre-trial detention, possibly with community service.

Lawyer Safira Ibrahim also pleaded for her client’s acquittal of involvement in armed robbery for lack of legal and convincing evidence. “The sole fact that my client has a criminal record should not play a role,” she said.

Source: The Daily Herald