Defendant alleged there was malicious plot against him
Ryan Alijah Ebanks was sentenced on Friday to 15 years imprisonment for the robbery of Three N’s Groceries at Batabano Plaza in West Bay on 5 March 2011. For possession of an imitation firearm with intent to commit the offence, he received a sentence of 15 years to run concurrently.
Justice Seymour Panton said these were serious offences in any community, but he considered that a small territory especially could not tolerate them. He also cited Ebanks’ previous convictions, which included robbery and carrying an offensive weapon.
“That sort of behaviour cannot be tolerated, and persons who indulge in this kind of behaviour must expect, especially when they are repeat offenders, to go to prison for a good while,” the judge said.
Ebanks, in his early 30s, elected to be tried by judge alone. He also chose to conduct his own defence. The judge said that was his right.
Ebanks told the court he was not the robber. He said he was the victim of a malicious plot by police and witnesses to have him removed from society and this malice stemmed from the fact that they all did not like him and wished to see him convicted of a crime he knew nothing about. One of the witnesses, he alleged, wanted to deprive him of some property.
No money or gun was found on Ebanks when he was arrested shortly after the incident, which occurred around 7.30pm on a Saturday.
The case for the prosecution, conducted by Crown Counsel Elisabeth Lees, included the evidence of the cashier, a customer who lived in the neighbourhood and an anonymous witness. All three said they knew Ebanks.
In delivering his verdict on 28 March, Justice Panton detailed their evidence and said he had been impressed by the manner in which they had given it. Every single one of the prosecution witnesses had been challenged and cross-examined by Ebanks, even to the point of rudeness, the judge said. He added that he did not hold this against the defendant, “who was clearly conducting his defence in the manner he felt best.”
Witness 13, the anonymous witness, who gave evidence via video link with voice electronically altered, said Ebanks was known to him for more than 10 years. (The Caymanian Compass uses masculine pronouns to refer to all anonymous witnesses.) He told the court he saw Ebanks come from a road across the street from the plaza. Ebanks lived on that road. When he came to the top of the road he pointed a gun and said “Watch me now.”
Ebanks was wearing short jean pants and a bandana covered his face from under his eyes, Thirteen related. He could see because of the nearby street light. After Ebanks entered the store and the cashier gave him something, Ebanks put it in the front of his pants and then ran in the direction of his house. As he ran, the bandana slid below his mouth.
The cashier said she would speak with Ebanks sometimes three or four times a day and he called her by her first name. On the day of the incident he had come in around 5pm to buy cigarettes and matches. In her view, he was drunk. Later he was outside the shop with other persons. When he came in with a “long gun” around 7.30 he called her by name and told her to give him the money. She recognised his voice. The cash she gave him totalled $522.
A customer who said he saw Ebanks every day said he recognised him by the way he walked. He also knew his voice. He denied disliking Ebanks or being coached by police to name him. He told the court that, some time before entering the store, Ebanks had pointed a gun at a shed across the road and said, “F— them, I going show them what I’m going do them tonight.”
A police officer who heard the robbery report around 7.45pm went to the scene and then checked the area. He saw Ebanks a short time later on Mount Pleasant Road, which joins West Church Street a short distance from where Batabano Plaza is located.
Justice Panton said he was satisfied the witnesses were truthful and not mistaken. He rejected all allegations of a plot against Ebanks and described any discrepancies as minor.
He said the act of pointing a firearm, whether real or imitation, in someone’s face was intended to cause fear not only to the cashier confronted, but also to other people who want to do lawful business.
Since the firearm was not recovered, the Crown could not show it was real. Therefore the charge had to be possession of an imitation firearm with intent to commit an offence.