Magistrate Angelyn Hernandez rejected a teenager’s explanations for the presence of his fingerprints inside a George Town residence and found him guilty of burglary, saying credibility was the issue.
After hearing mitigation from defense attorney John Furniss, she sentenced 19-year-old Devonte Wayne Brown to 18 months imprisonment.
The burglary occurred on Dec. 16, 2014, between 8 a.m. and noon. The wife and mother of the family came home to find the back-door screen cut and the glass smashed. The downstairs was ransacked. Stolen items included jewelry and electronic items with a total value of $4,919. One of the items taken was an iPad, but the box for it was on a bed upstairs. Scenes-of-crime officers found fingerprints on the box and subsequently matched them to Brown.
He was interviewed in January and denied any involvement. He pleaded not guilty in April. In May, he maintained his not guilty plea, but pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods – the iPad and a pair of binoculars.
At his trial, Brown said he was riding his bicycle past the house when a man he did not know whistled to him and offered to sell the iPad and a pair of binoculars for $150. Brown said he touched the box while taking the iPad out, but then the man kept the box.
Brown said when he tried to use the iPad, security features advised that it was stolen. He said he was going to take it to his “bail officer” at the police station the next day, but the officer was not there. He said he then disposed of it in the garbage because he was afraid. He also expressed fear of the man from whom he bought the iPad, although he had not given the man his name or told him where he lived.
The magistrate said she had to be satisfied that Brown was the person who entered the premises as a trespasser.
She noted that his explanation for his fingerprints on the box came after blanket denials in his interview. If he lied in his interview, that was not necessarily evidence of guilt, she pointed out.
However, he never mentioned his explanation until he came to court. Further, in reaching her verdict, the magistrate did not accept that Brown was afraid of the unnamed man.
Given his young age, she said she had to consider whether there were sentencing options other than imprisonment, but Brown appeared to have exhausted those options already, with two previous convictions for handling stolen goods.
Crown counsel Candia James had pointed out that residential burglaries, whether by day or by night, had to be discouraged. This offense took place days before Christmas and made young children scared and fearful. Although the value of the stolen items could be quantified, the sentimental value of certain items was priceless.
The magistrate also considered the fact that Brown was on a suspended sentence and in breach of a probation order at the time the burglary was committed.