Man admits stealing along Seven Mile Beach
A man who stole from beachgoers on Seven Mile Beach has been jailed for four years.
Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn imposed sentences totaling four years for four counts of theft, a burglary, a drug charge and a burglary committed while on probation. Three of the thefts were from people on the beach.
Defendant Giovalde Rohellio Stewart, 20, was told on Monday that he would get credit for his pleas of guilty and other mitigating factors, but the court had to send a message. That message must be, “If you target the tourism sector in this manner, you will go to prison and it will be for a significant period.”
The magistrate said stealing personal items from people on the beach strikes at the very heart of one of the pillar’s of Cayman’s economy. “Tourists come to enjoy our beaches because they feel safe,” she pointed out. They, as well as residents, should be able to expect to be in the water or lie on the beach without being hassled or stolen from.
“By targeting tourists, or even residents, you are undermining the good reputation of Cayman and hurting the people in the industry who worked so hard to establish it,” she told Stewart. Every person in these islands suffers as a result, as well as the individuals who lost property and may even have had their holiday ruined, she added.
Crown counsel Greg Walcolm provided details of each offense.
The first beach theft occurred in August 2013, when Stewart stole a Blackberry cellphone from a young resident who had been sitting on the beach and left his property when he walked away “for two minutes.” Stewart pleaded guilty, saying he had found the phone. He admitted he sold the phone for $100 after making no effort to find its owner.
The magistrate accepted that this theft was opportunistic and attracted a prison term of 12 months, but the discount for Stewart’s guilty plea made the sentence seven months.
The second beach theft was in July 2014. The victims were sitting on the beach outside their hotel and their bag was a very short distance away. It was a Louis Vuitton bag containing a Gucci makeup case, US$1,000, two iPhones, credit cards and a silver charm bracelet. The total value was $5,400.
After the theft, they reported having seen two young men in the area. CCTV footage from the hotel provided police with evidence that led them to one man and then, within two weeks, to Stewart. He admitted having grabbed the bag and taken it to his cousin’s house, where he said he divided the cash. He told police he had thrown the bag in the bush and officers recovered it.
The magistrate said this theft was very targeted, which was an aggravating feature. Her starting point for sentence was two-and-a-half years. With discount for the plea, the sentence would be 20 months if this were the only offense. Since the magistrate had to consider the totality of all the sentences, she made eight months concurrent and 12 months consecutive.
The third theft occurred in September 2014. A family was on the beach outside their hotel, with their belongings in a beach chair. The father stayed in his beach chair nearby while other family members went into the water. Someone grabbed the bag from the chair and handed it to Stewart. Stewart and the other person then ran in different directions. The father and a witness ran after them. Stewart was caught and the bag was retrieved.
The magistrate used the same sentencing procedure for this theft, imposing eight months concurrent and 12 months consecutive.
The magistrate noted that these offenses took place while Stewart was on probation for a burglary. Then age 18, he had asked the court for a chance, saying he got into the wrong crowd and was led astray. He said he wanted to go back to school and put himself back on the right track. The court had given him that chance.
The magistrate noted that he never did go back to school. “You must accept now that you are personally responsible for your actions and those actions have consequences,” she told him.
Defense attorney John Furniss said the defendant had entered the Drug Rehabilitation Court in January 2014 and did try to rehabilitate himself, including four months at the Caribbean Haven residential treatment center. He asked that these efforts be taken into account, along with time in custody and Stewart’s still young age. He said the drug court team had bent over backwards trying to help the defendant, but he consumed illegal substances while at Caribbean Haven and was removed from that program.
For the original burglary, the magistrate said 18 months was the appropriate sentence, but with credit for the guilty plea she imposed a term of 12 months. This sentence was made concurrent to the sentence for the second burglary, which occurred on Dec. 26, 2013.
This offense was committed during the daytime and nothing was stolen, the magistrate noted. With credit for his guilty plea, she imposed a sentence of two years. He had also admitted damage to property – a patio door valued at $1,450 – and the sentence for this was four months concurrent.
For stealing a bottle of liquor from a neighboring property the same day, the sentence was four months concurrent.
The drug offenses occurred in May 2014 when Stewart was coming to the drug court. His backpack was checked at the courthouse security point and four small packets of ganja were discovered along with scissors and cigarette papers. The magistrate said these offenses were brazen and foolish. The sentence was two months concurrent.
Finally, he received seven days concurrent for driving under the influence of alcohol in June 2013, when his breath test showed a reading of 0.191. The legal limit is 0.100. A two-year disqualification began in December that year.
Adding up the consecutive and concurrent sentences, Stewart received a total of four years.