Six years for gas station robbery

Defendant pleaded guilty, but had previous convictions for theft, burglary

Travis Kelvin Ebanks, 32, was sentenced Friday to six years imprisonment after pleading guilty last September to robbing the Eastern Avenue Texaco station in May 2012 and carrying an imitation firearm at the time.

According to details of the charge, Ebanks stole $229, but Justice Malcolm Swift said the amount of money and the fact that the firearm was a flare gun were not the important points.

Ebanks had pointed the weapon at the cashier: “The degree of fear and terror was the same as if it were real,” the judge pointed out.

The local tariff for robbery is eight years, counsel agreed. Justice Swift said the aggravating features such as the weapon and Ebanks’ previous convictions raised the sentencing level to 12 years. The mitigating features set out by defence attorney Prathna Bodden reduced the sentence to nine years, from which Ebanks received a full one-third discount for his early admissions and guilty plea. His sentence was therefore six years.

The judge noted comments by Justice Charles Quin in a previous robbery case about the need to protect small businesses, and the series of such robberies that had taken place before Ebanks’ offence.

Crown prosecutor Kenneth Ferguson said the robbery occurred around 9.55pm on 31 May, 2012, when there were customers in the store. Ebanks pushed past them and approached the cashier, pushing an unknown female queueing at the counter.

He held an orange flare gun in his right hand and pointed it at one of the cashiers. With his left hand, he attempted to open the cash register by pressing keys, but was unsuccessful. Pointing the gun in the cashier’s face, he shouted at her to open the drawer. She did so and took out a plastic pan containing Cayman Islands currency. Ebanks took some money, then raised the flare gun into the air. No shots were fired. He then left the store, jumped on a push bike and rode away.

Mr. Ferguson said the station’s CCTV footage showed the person entering and carrying out the robbery. The robber’s face was covered by a T-shirt, but his clothing was noted.

Meanwhile, police received information that Ebanks had gone to his mother’s residence, confessed that he had “hit off a place” and tried to give her money.

Police arrested Ebanks on 10 June, 2012. Executing a search warrant, they found clothes that matched the robber’s description.

Ebanks initially denied responsibility, but halfway through the interview made a full confession, Mr. Ferguson said. He pointed to the aggravating features: using a weapon to intimidate; concealing identity by covering his face; having numerous convictions for dishonesty.

Ms Bodden told the court there was no use of violence, no verbal threats, no injuries. She said some of the people in the gas station at the time recognised that Ebanks’ weapon was “not a real gun”.

When arrested, Ebanks told officers, “I’m sick of my life. I need help.”

Defence counsel and Justice Swift both referred to a psychiatric assessment and social inquiry reports.

Ms Bodden said Ebanks had been born prematurely, with foetal alcohol syndrome. His drug abuse started with sniffing glue at age 5 and went on to ganja. In prison since his arrest, he now has access to in-house counselling, she indicated.

Justice Swift said the psychiatric evidence showed Ebanks had an attention deficit disorder, but was of average intelligence with no anti-social personality disorder or discernible major psychiatric disorder.

The social inquiry report indicated he was worse off for drink and possible drugs at the time of the offence.

The judge detailed the impact on the victims. One said she had been a trusting, happy person but now could not sleep. Another worried that it could happen again.

Low-waged persons working at night must be protected, Justice Swift stated. That was why he had asked about the frequency of such incidents in the Cayman Islands.

Ebanks had pointed the weapon at the cashier: “The degree of fear and terror was the same as if it were real,” the judge pointed out.