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DH | 24-month prison sentence for abducting ex-girlfriend

HomeLandenSint MaartenDH | 24-month prison sentence for abducting ex-girlfriend

~ Suspected accomplice acquitted ~

PHILIPSBURG–The Court of First Instance has sentenced a man to two years in prison for snatching his ex-girlfriend out of a casino parking lot and forcing her into a vehicle against her will on the night of February 3.

Victor Ramirez (34) did not attend his trial on Wednesday, having been deported to the Dominican Republic shortly after his release from custody on February 14. He was not represented by a lawyer.

Present in court was suspected accomplice I.M.W. (25), who also faced kidnapping charges for driving the getaway vehicle after Ramirez pushed the victim into the back seat and held her down. W., like Ramirez, did not have legal counsel during Wednesday’s trial.

According to the victim’s statement, which the judge read in court, she kicked and screamed as Ramirez covered her mouth and W. drove the white Hyundai Accent out of a parking lot at Port de Plaisance Resort and Casino.

Several witnesses reported the abduction to police, but patrols failed to locate the vehicle as it travelled from Cole Bay to a house in Betty’s Estate, where the victim claimed Ramirez and his new girlfriend assaulted her.

Surveillance camera footage from Belair Beach Hotel captured the Hyundai entering a rocky dirt path leading to a darkened section of Little Bay Beach around 11:30pm, or roughly 30 minutes after the kidnapping was reported.

The vehicle remained there for about 15 minutes. The victim told police that she had been strangled and feared the perpetrators had taken her to a secluded location to kill her.

However, they had left when other people had turned up, the victim said. They then drove to nearby Sea Breeze Hotel to wash the blood off the victim’s shirt, before tossing her out of the car on Union Road.

Officers arrested Ramirez and W. in a room at Sea Breeze Hotel early the next morning, following a tip that the Hyundai was parked in the area.

Ramirez and W. were released after spending 10 days behind bars, which, according to the prosecutor, was only allowed because of the limited space in St. Maarten’s overcrowded detention system.

Ramirez, who admitted during a police interrogation to abducting the victim and stealing her phone, was found guilty of kidnapping and robbery. The judge sentenced him according to the prosecutor’s demand.

Describing Ramirez as the “initiator” of the crime, the prosecutor had called for 24-month prison sentence. Because Ramirez had been deported prior to his lower court trial, he will only serve time at the Point Blanche prison if he ever returns to St. Maarten in the future.

Troubled relationship

W. testified that Ramirez and the victim had been in a troubled relationship for two years, and that Ramirez had lived with him for some time after being kicked out by the victim.

Ramirez claimed during a police interrogation that the victim had been harassing him. W. told the same story to the court, claiming the victim had been calling him constantly in an effort to speak with Ramirez.

Waking up to kidnapping

W. told the court that he was supposed to ring in his birthday at midnight with a friend in a popular Simpson Bay nightclub. W. said Ramirez was giving him a ride, and claimed that he had fallen asleep in the passenger seat on the way.

He said he had woken up “in shock” to sound of the door opening and saw Ramirez pushing the still-fighting victim into the car. Then he heard someone else knocking on the car window, at which point, he told the court, he jumped into the driver’s seat and quickly left the area.

When the judge asked whether Ramirez had instructed him where to go after leaving the parking lot, W. gave a long pause and slowly nodded his head up-and-down.

Later during the trial, the prosecutor asked W. whether he was afraid of Ramirez.

“I ain’t afraid of him,” W. said. “But I does stay far away when he drinking.”

Although admitting that W. might not have intended to kidnap the victim, the prosecutor argued that he must have known she was being held against her will when she entered the car kicking and screaming.

“From that moment on, the defendant became an accomplice,” the prosecutor said, calling for a prison sentence of 12 months, of which six months would be conditional, and 180 hours of community service.

The prosecutor told the court that he added community service to his demand because W. probably would only be called to serve his sentence “in several years” due to ongoing cell shortages at the country’s only adult prison.

“The defendant needs to feel something now,” the prosecutor said.

W. told the court that he did not find the prosecutor’s demand fair because it had been Ramirez’ relationship problems that got him into the hands of the law.

Acquittal

The judge fully acquitted W. in his verdict, finding insufficient evidence to convict him of either being an accomplice or an accessory to kidnapping.

As W. had woken up suddenly to an abduction in progress, the judge ruled that he might not have had time to consciously realise what was taking place. The judge also ruled that W. might not have been aware of any wrongdoing during the rest of the drive because the victim was not “fighting and screaming all the time.”

Despite Wednesday’s acquittal, W.’s legal troubles may not be over. The Prosecutor’s Office has the right to appeal, which would send the case to be tried at the Joint Court of Justice.

Bron: Daily Herald

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