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Three men get prison sentences for armed robbery of courier

1405375098000-judge-gavelManuel Ramirez Carter, Brandon Liberal and John Phillip Cohen-Ebanks all received prison sentences from Justice Charles Quin last Wednesday (23) at Cayman Islands Grand Court in George Town. A fourth man was deemed unfit to plead.

All four men had been charged with being involved in the armed robbery of a courier, Winston Nelson, outside the Brit-Cay building on Eastern Avenue, George Town on Oct. 4th, 2012.

The charges were that Carter, Liberal and Cohen-Ebanks stole CI$8,117.00 and US$593.00 the property of BritCay Insurance Company, and “at the time of so doing and in order to do so sought to put Winston Nelson in fear of being then and there subjected to force”. They were also charged with a fire-arm offence – having in their possession a Bryco semi-automatic pistol.

Cohen-Ebanks pleaded guilty in June 2013 and although Carter and Liberal also pleaded guilty they had delayed their change of plea after a jury had already been chosen for their trial.

Two of the defendants had blamed cocaine addiction as a cause for their crime.

Justice Quin before sentencing the accused said there were several aggravating factors in the case.

He said:

“We have a loaded firearm.

“We have four offenders before the court.

“It is clear that the offence was pre-planned with some considerable organisation.

“We have two different vehicles being used – one to commit the robbery and another to get away from the robbery.

“We have the switching of licence plates for the vehicles.

“We have the presence and use of handheld radios for the robbers to communicate with each other.

“The Defendant Carter who actually used the gun to execute the robbery wore a

disguise in the form of a ski mask to conceal his identity.

“A large sum of money was targeted for the robbery.

“Three Defendants played a very active part.

“There is evidence to suggest Liberal supplied the handheld radios and made

sure that Cohen-Ebanks did not back out of the planned robbery at the last moment.

“In addition, Liberal is the one who gave the signal to go when he said either “the

food is ready” or “the food is on the table” clearly indicating that he was the man who was directing the heist. It was Liberal who spotted the police near to the pre-

arranged meeting point after the robbery and, consequently, warned Carter and Cohen-Ebanks not to go there.”

The judge also said, “In this case the Sprint employee suffered a terrifying and traumatic fright. He is no longer able to be employed as a courier and finds adjusting to normal activities such as going out with other people, extremely difficult. One cannot underestimate the effect such a terrifying incident, with a gun being pointed at him, must have had on this innocent victim.”

Justice Quin then said:

“As a result of the high number of aggravating factors in this case the starting point

for Count 1 (robbery) has to be between six (6) and seven (7) years. It should be noted that this is at the higher end of the range for Category 2 offences recommended by the SGC. It is a long established principle that the earlier an accused pleads guilty, the greater the reduction in the sentence imposed by the Court. Had the accused, Carter and Liberal, pleaded guilty from the outset, they would have been entitled to a discount of 33 1/3 %. As they maintained their not guilty pleas until the day of the trial, and after a jury had been empanelled, any discount can only be I 0% or less.”

He then imposed concurrent terms of six years for the robbery and seven years for possession of the pistol used to carry out the crime. Seven years is the mandatory minimum for possession of an unlicensed firearm on a guilty plea when there are no exceptional circumstances.

Cheryll Richards, Director of Public prosecutions, had earlier told the court that Cohen-Ebanks had provided significant assistance to police and without his help, Liberal and a fourth person would not have been identified.

Because of this and his early guilty plea, Cohen-Ebanks was sentenced to only three years. The judge said this had warranted “exceptional circumstance”.

Liberal had two previous convictions, Carter 23 previous convictions and Cohen Ebanks 59 previous convictions, 28 being drug-related.



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