‘Nuisance’ offender racks up four years

Man has more than 60 convictions

Donnie Ray Connor was sentenced on 4 November to a total of four years imprisonment after being found guilty of what his attorney described as ‘nuisance’ offences.

These included interfering with a vehicle and trespassing on private property to steal fruit from a tree in October 2008; and shoplifting $14.19 worth of items from Kirk’s Supermarket in February 2009.

While on bail for these charges, he entered the Wharf Restaurant as a trespasser before the bar opened and stole two bottles of liquor. An employee saw him with the bottles under his shirt and followed him. Connor then put the bottles down but the worker held him until police arrived. This incident occurred in July 2009.

After Magistrate Nova Hall delivered her verdicts, including one not guilty, Defence Attorney John Furniss spoke on Connor’s behalf. He described the offences as ‘not the most serious… more the nuisance value.’

He noted that Connor, 54, had been found fit to plead and instruct an attorney, ‘but if you listen to him, his problems are manifest.’

Mr. Furniss mentioned, as he has in other cases, the need for a type of halfway house. ‘We don’t have facilities for looking after or keeping a check on persons like Mr. Connor so that they have a place to go to at night and do work during the day. The only place of safety is the prison and it is being used to warehouse someone who is a nuisance.’

The magistrate disagreed to an extent, pointing out that the waste of police man-hours and the impact Connor’s offending had on his victims and their neighbours made his offending somewhat higher than nuisance. She said she could not ignore the cumulative effect: the most aggravating feature was Connor’s 60 previous convictions.

The vehicle interference occurred in a neighbourhood off South Church Street. Witnesses observed a man on a bicycle go over to a parked car. They knew the owner, so they approached the man and asked what he was doing. One witness observed that the man’s hand was inside the window of the passenger door.

The man left his bicycle and ran. Later one of the witnesses saw him and gave chase. Two men caught him and tied him to a tree until police came.

Magistrate Hall passed sentences totalling 27 months for the above offences, imposing some terms concurrent for failing to provide a specimen of urine and refusing to provide his fingerprints after the Wharf burglary.

Connor had been sentenced in October 2007 of a residential burglary. His sentence then was 18 months imprisonment, with 12 months of that term suspended for two years.

In the latest sentencing hearing, Crown Counsel Kirsty-Ann Gunn agreed that the trigger date for activating the suspended sentence was the date of the reoffending.

All of the new offences occurred within the two years of the suspension.

Magistrate Hall then imposed the 12 months for a total of three years three months.

Afterwards, Connor was taken to Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale to be sentenced for the supermarket theft. She had found him guilty after trial.

In that incident police stopped him in the supermarket parking lot because they had received a complaint about his rudeness in another store.

The officers requested a search and in his pocket found a package of cheese that was still cold. Connor did not have a receipt for it or for a pair of sunglasses he had. He denied being in the store and said a friend had bought the items for him

However, closed circuit TV showed Connor walking past cash registers without checking anything; he was wearing the same shirt as the one he had on when officers stopped him.

The chief magistrate told Connor she regretted that Cayman does not have a ‘persistent offender’ law that would allow him to be tried in Grand Court and get a longer sentence.

Connor maintained his innocence. ‘They never found me stealing those things,’ he told the court.

He was given another nine months for this theft, with a concurrent sentence for consuming cocaine. Mr. Furniss asked if that sentence could run concurrent with the sentences imposed by Magistrate Hall.

‘Absolutely not,’ the chief magistrate replied. That sentence brought Connor’s total to four years.

She told him, ‘I know you’re aggrieved, so you can appeal.’