Simon Julio Newball, 37, was sentenced to eight years imprisonment on Thursday after a Grand Court jury found him guilty of stealing jewellery from Magnum Jewellers in 2011.
The theft of rings, necklaces, studs and earrings with a total value of US$308,194 occurred around 11am on 22 December, 2011, when the store was open for business.
Newball was also found guilty of arson in relation to a vehicle used to commit the crime. For this offence he received two years, but the term is to run concurrently.
The term “smash and grab” was used by both Senior Crown Counsel Nicole Petit and defence attorney Guy Dillaway-Parry at the sentencing hearing when they referred to various factors that would aggravate or mitigate the offence. The maximum sentence for theft in the Cayman Islands is 10 years.
Newball was originally charged with robbery, as being one of three men taking part in the heist. During trial, Justice Alexander Henderson directed the jury to return a verdict of not guilty to robbery, because he had decided there was no evidence that would permit otherwise.
The judge said there was no force used by the three people who entered the store against anyone in the store and there had been no threat of force. He explained further he had decided a theft had been committed and this “lesser included charge” was still live for jurors to consider.
Ms Petit raised the point again during sentencing, when she referred to the use of a weapon to frighten the victim. The judge disagreed. He said the store clerk was frightened, but no weapon was used to frighten him.
He summarised the incident as follows: Three men alighted from a vehicle. The man armed with a hatchet smashed the top glass of four showcases. He and the others scooped up as much as they could and sped away. The whole incident took less than 60 seconds. Jurors had viewed footage from the store’s closed circuit television.
Mr. Dillaway-Parry called the hatchet a tool. He pointed out that the man who had it at no time brandished it; he just went in and broke the glass. There were no customers in the store at the time, he added.
Justice Henderson viewed the theft and burning of the getaway car as one continuous act, but he said both had to be reflected in the overall sentence.
The evidence was that the RAV-4 used for the crime had been stolen the previous day. After being driven from the jewellery store on Cardinall Avenue to Wahoo Close off North Church Street, it was set on fire.
A witness who saw it burning saw three men running from it. One of the men had what was described as rasta hair. All three ran to and departed in a vehicle described as tall and red wine in colour.
Shortly afterward, a police officer saw Newball driving a red Ford Explorer. The officer knew that Newball was disqualified from driving, but did not pursue him because he was responding to the report of the jewellery store incident. The officer did, however, call in and report this sighting. Newball was arrested on 10 January, 2012. Police officers said two rings fell from his pants after he was handcuffed. Newball denied having the rings and said they had been planted.
His evidence included an account of his activities on 22 December, 2011, spending time with his girl friend, eating at a named restaurant, collecting a pay cheque from his boss. He denied any involvement in the jewellery theft.
He agreed he had owned a red Ford Explorer, but he didn’t drive it because he was disqualified. He only drove to test vehicles after he fixed them, he explained.
He told the court he sold the red Explorer on 20 December, 2011, for US$1,000. Three men had come to his yard and one of them was a rasta that resembled Newball.
Justice Henderson asked the defendant to turn around so jurors could see his hair; it was tied back and reached to about 4 inches above his waist.
Newball named one of the men who came to his yard and said his previous lawyer had told him that this man was involved in the robbery of WestStar [which occurred on 24 May 2012]. He said he had two Explorers he wanted to sell together and did not want to sell just the red one. However, he indicated he did so because he was intimidated by the circumstance of at least one of the men having a gun.
On the day of his arrest, 10 January 2012, Newball said he ran from police because he had just purchased some ganja.
In passing sentence after the jury’s unanimous verdicts, Justice Henderson referred to Cayman Islands sentencing guidelines from January 2002. For offences of theft or related offences, depending on the value of the property stolen and any other aggravating factors … an immediate term of imprisonment ranging from one to four years for a first offence, and an order for repayment, will likely be imposed. The tariff could be higher still depending on the seriousness of the offence.
The judge pointed to aggravating features that justified a starting point outside that range: the offence was committed by a group or gang; it was well planned and professional, with each person seeming to know his role and carrying it out; there was a high level of profit. Further aggravating features were the burning of the car and Newball’s record of previous convictions.
The judge said there was no force used by the three people who entered the store against anyone in the store and there had been no threat of force.