Two defendants blame cocaine addiction for their involvement
Brandon Reno Liberal and Manuel Ramirez Carter, were sentenced last week to seven years’ imprisonment for their roles in the armed robbery of a courier outside the Brit-Cay building on Oct. 4, 2012.
Justice Charles Quin imposed concurrent terms of six years for the robbery and seven years for possession of a Bryco semi-automatic pistol used to carry out the crime. Seven years is the mandatory minimum for possession of an unlicensed firearm on a guilty plea when there are no exceptional circumstances.
John Phillip Cohen Ebanks, who pleaded guilty in June 2013, was sentenced to three years. Justice Quin accepted Cohen Ebanks’s genuine remorse and early guilty plea. He also found, when considering the sentence, that the assistance to police and willingness to give evidence at the trial constituted an exceptional circumstance.
Liberal and Carter pleaded guilty in February this year, but not until a jury had already been chosen for their trial. The judge indicated that such a late plea was worth not more than a 10 percent discount.
Director of Public prosecutions Cheryll Richards told the court that Cohen Ebanks had provided significant assistance to police; without his help, Liberal and a fourth person would not have been identified. (The fourth man has since been deemed unfit to plead and is still to be dealt with.) The men admitted that they stole CI$8,117 and US$593 from BritCay Insurance Company and put the courier in fear of being subjected to force.
Attorney Charles Clifford told the court that Carter was under the influence of cocaine at the time of the robbery and the facts of the offense were fuzzy to him.
Carter’s own words were, “I was not thinking about the consequences because of this drug thing, it doesn’t give me time to think and because I wanted that drug, that is why I know I did it.”
Attorney Clyde Allen also advised that Cohen Ebanks had said his addiction to cocaine had led him into the difficulties he now faced.
Mr. Allen said serious consideration was given to pleading not guilty because of duress. Cohen Ebanks had tried to get out of the robbery, but Liberal had threatened him and his family. Now Cohen Ebanks was accepting responsibility for his actions. He had used his share of the robbery proceeds to buy cocaine and pay his mother’s medical bills.
Attorney John Furniss told the court that, while in custody, Liberal had assisted police with the recovery of another firearm – a .22 revolver that was not connected to this incident. He suggested some credit might be given to Liberal for this assistance, but Justice Quin replied that police did not charge Liberal with another firearm possession, which meant that authorities had already given him credit.
He noted that Liberal had two previous convictions. Carter had 23 previous convictions and Cohen Ebanks had 59 previous, of which 28 were drug-related.