Last of four men involved in BritCay House robbery sentenced

The last of four men involved in the 2012 robbery of a courier outside BritCay House was sentenced last week. Tarrick Kevin Crawford was given a 12 months’ sentence, which the judge suspended for 12 months.

“I do not want this to be a precedent because this is truly an exceptional case,” Justice Quin emphasized.

Crawford, 18 at the time of the offense, was initially deemed unfit to plead. He was found to have been functioning at the mental age of eight, Justice Charles Quin heard. Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards said Crawford required a year of treatment to get to his present stage. He was subsequently found fit to plead and entered his guilty plea last November.

The daylight robbery occurred on Oct. 4, 2012, when Manuel Ramirez Carter, 32, pointed a gun at the courier and took from him a bag containing CI$8,117 and US$593 in cash, plus $190,000 worth of checks. John Phillip Cohen Ebanks, 50, drove the car in which Carter left the scene. They then made their getaway by switching to a car driven by Brandon Reno Liberal, 27. Crawford was in the second car.

Justice Quin said he was mindful of the mental age of the defendant at the time of his offending, but the bigger issue was what his participation had been. Ms. Richards advised that Crawford’s role had been limited. He was present when the robbery was being planned days earlier and initially he was to have been a getaway driver. On the day itself, however, he was not a driver.

Before the robbery, as the men waited in two cars not far from BritCay House, Ebanks told Liberal he wanted to pull out of the plan. Liberal sent Crawford to Ebanks to tell him, using expletive language, “Don’t mess up on me.”

Justice Quin remarked, “So he was really a messenger.”

Ms. Richards listed the aggravating factors of the offense: pre-planning, the use of a loaded firearm, the wearing of a mask by Carter, the use of two different vehicles and switching of license plates.

In 2014, Liberal and Carter were sentenced to six years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty. Ebanks was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment because of significant assistance he gave to the Crown.

Crawford first came to court in late November 2012. His attorney at the time, Fiona Robertson, expressed concern that he was not fit to plead and he was dealt with separately from the other three. Other attorneys from Samson and McGrath have appeared for him since then. Last week, it was Laurence Aiolfi who pointed out that Crawford had not been aware that a firearm was involved.

He had been drug-free in his last several tests, Mr. Aiolfi remarked, saying it showed Crawford’s ability to abide by a court order. He said it showed that Crawford now had a real understanding of the criminal justice system and the consequences of his actions.

Justice Quin said it seemed that anything Crawford did, he was directed to do, but it was not a question of duress.

In passing sentence, the judge took into account Crawford’s guilty plea entered at the first opportunity. He said the defendant was aware a robbery was taking place and by his presence encouraged the others. He did act as messenger but took no other part. His role was limited and he acted at the direction of others. At the time he was not acting as a fully functioning adult, the judge observed.

“There has been marked improvement in his behavior. He shows the ability to abide by court orders,” Justice Quin said.

On that basis, he imposed a term of 12 months, which was suspended for 12 months. During that time Crawford must abide by a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., comply with recommendations from the Department of Community Rehabilitation, register for work, refrain from illegal drugs and undergo random drug testing. He is also to comply with mental health treatment as and when necessary.

The judge urged Crawford to contact his probation officer if people tried to persuade him to do something he knew was wrong. “If you find yourself being led astray, get help,” the judge told him.

If Crawford commits another offense in the next 12 months he will be brought back to court on this charge, the judge warned.