Five years for aiding robbers’ escape

Driver of getaway car unwilling to name robbers

Denying a charge of robbery involving guns, John Alfredo Miller pleaded guilty last week to being an accessory after the fact. On Tuesday, he was sentenced to five years imprisonment for driving three men away from the The Shoppe in West Bay after a robbery there on 29 November, 2010.

The offence was assisting them to leave the scene of the crime and, by doing so, impeding their apprehension or prosecution. The gunmen are still at large and the guns have not been recovered.

The maximum sentence for being an accessory is seven years. Justice Charles Quin agreed with defence attorney John Furniss that Miller deserved a discount for his plea. But Miller was not willing to assist the court by naming the robbers and that was an aggravating factor, the judge said.

Mr. Furniss earlier said Miller, 21, was in fear for his life and in fear for his family.

The judge said he felt compelled to comment on that absence of cooperation with police, which he called “a deeply regrettable consequence of the pervasive and abhorrent influence these criminals have in our community. To this defendant I state that the fear he has for himself and his family will only spread if criminals are allowed to thrive and remain at large.

“I would implore this defendant to examine carefully all the consequences related to his silence, in the round, and understand that there is no long-term good for him, his family or the community when criminals are allowed to thrive and their actions go unpunished,” Justice Quin said.

Crown Counsel Elisabeth Lees said the business owner and two other men were outside The Shoppe working on a truck when three men walked toward the premises. All three had their faces covered and all three were carrying guns. One said “Don’t move, and give me all the money.” One of the gunmen pointed his weapon at one of the owner’s companions and took two cellphones from him. One gunman went into The Shoppe, pointed his gun at a woman inside and asked, “Where’s the money?” He took $550 in cash and left.

By chance, the shop’s landlord was walking towards the area when he saw a white Ford Explorer parked in a nearby driveway. Although the vehicle was empty it was facing the road with its engine running. When the three robbers left The Shoppe, one of them saw the landlord, held a gun at him and told him to turn back the other way. He complied.

However, one of the men who had been working on the truck saw the Explorer pull out of the driveway, and all the three robbers get into it. Another of the men who had been in front of The Shoppe saw the Explorer and noted its licence number. 911 was called immediately and police responded, stopping the Explorer and apprehending Miller at 8.48pm. The three gunmen were not in the vehicle when it was stopped.

Ms Lees submitted a victim impact statement from the business owner, who said he now dreaded being alone in the shop. “He said he is constantly looking outside, writing down licence numbers and paying close attention to customers. ‘I am pondering right now if I should continue with the business or just close down for good. I wouldn’t like anyone to go through this because I can tell you that it is not a good feeling,’” he said.

Ms Lees and Mr. Furniss agreed on the basis of Miller’s plea to the lesser charge. He was in the West Bay area going to call on his girlfriend when he received a phone call asking him to come to the vicinity of The Shoppe because the caller needed a ride. It took only a few minutes and he pulled into the area adjacent to The Shoppe. He saw individuals coming and all three had guns. He gave the gunmen a lift for a short distance and dropped them off. He was then stopped by police.

Justice Quin acknowledged there was no evidence Miller participated in the actual robbery involving guns or imitation firearms. But the gunmen had caused extreme fear in the minds of at least three and probably five persons at the scene. “Therefore, it can only be described as a robbery of the most serious kind and of the kind which has plagued Grand Cayman over the past few years,” Justice Quin said.

He also said in many cases there is little distinction between an accessory and a principal because the accessory allows the principal offender to escape undetected.

As part of his mitigation Mr. Furniss had told the court Miller did not have any convictions for violence or dishonesty. Later in the day he accompanied his client to Summary Court where Magistrate Nova Hall sentenced Miller for charges involving drugs and theft of a cellphone. Mr. Furniss asked that sentences be concurrent with the five years just imposed.

The magistrate said she could not agree because the offences took place at different times and were not connected to the robbery. She handed down terms of imprisonment for all offences and made them consecutive to the robbery sentence, but concurrent with each other for an additional six months.