Visitor brought gun ‘by mistake’

An American couple that came to Cayman to celebrate their anniversary ended up staying an extra week before they were dealt with in Summary Court for an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.

Both Lee DeShawn Young and his wife were charged with possession and importation of the unlicensed .22 Ravenarm handgun.

Young, 28, pleaded guilty to all charges. After he was sentenced to seven days imprisonment and fined $3,000, no evidence was offered against his wife and her charges were dismissed.

Defence Attorney John Furniss told Magistrate Grace Donalds that Young had stored the gun in the suitcase and then forgot it was there.

The couple travelled by air with their luggage from Detroit, Michigan, to Miami, then Miami to Grand Cayman. Mr. Furniss observed that the weapon was not detected during this journey.

The couple arrived here on 21 June and spent six days. The gun was detected only when they were leaving, on 27 June.

Senior Crown Counsel Andre Mon Desir explained how that occurred.

He said an X-ray machine operator employed by airport authorities was scanning baggage outbound to Atlanta and saw the outline of what appeared to be a firearm. The baggage was rejected for departure and ownership of it was confirmed.

The airline was contacted and staff advised that no firearm declaration had been completed.

Customs officers searched the luggage in the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Young. The firearm was recovered from inside an outer pocket at the bottom of the bag. A magazine contained five rounds of ammunition.

Mr. Mon Desir said Young indicated he had bought the gun from off the streets in the city at home. He admitted it was illegal. He also acknowledged a previous conviction for buying a gun without a licence, noting he was 21 when that happened.

‘I would submit this was a tragic mistake,’ Mr. Furniss said.

Bishop Edward Lucas of the Faith Tabernacle Church in Michigan was called as a character witness.

He described both defendants as active members of the church for some eight or nine years. He said Young had showed himself to be a real Christian and was involved in the construction of a recreation centre for neighbourhood youth.

Mr. Furniss also handed up a letter from Young’s business partner, who said the defendant’s expertise was needed so that their company could complete a contract for work in an inner city housing project. Without Young, the company and five workers would suffer serious economic loss.

A recent amendment to the Firearms law sets a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for possession of an unlicensed firearm, Mr. Furniss acknowledged.

But in a previous case, Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale had ruled that the mandatory sentence did not apply to Summary Court because the Summary Court is limited to sentences of four years unless a law expressly states otherwise (Caymanian Compass, 9 December 2005).

Because Young was a foreigner, the court could not put him on probation or give him a suspended sentence. Mr. Furniss asked for a financial penalty so that Young could return to the US with his wife.

Mr. Mon Desir clarified the Crown’s position that the 10-year minimum did apply to the Summary Court. He said it was not proposed to invite the court to impose the 10-year minimum sentence on Young, ‘but that does not derogate from the fact that the Crown maintains it applies.’

In passing sentence, the Magistrate said it almost strained the credulity of the court that a mistake was made with the firearm, particularly when Young had a previous firearm-related conviction.

The court considered that a sentence of imprisonment was appropriate, but it would be seven days, which he had already served.

In addition, she fined young $1,500 for importation of the unlicensed gun and $1,500 for the ammunition. Possession charges were left on file.

The Crown also brought charges of possession of dangerous articles on the flight to Cayman, under the Aviation Security and piracy (Overseas Territories) Order 2000. Young pleaded guilty and the magistrate imposed no separate penalty.