Man gets five years for $100,000 resort heist

Brandon Reno Liberal, 29, was sentenced on Friday to five years imprisonment after he was found guilty of a burglary at the Treasure Island Resort in the early hours of Sunday, May 6, 2012. A safe, which had been bolted the floor of an office, was removed from the resort along with its contents – CI$75,104.24 and US$31,701.42.

Liberal had pleaded not guilty and elected trial by judge alone and Justice Marva McDonald-Bishop found him guilty in October. On Friday, she told Liberal that he would serve the five years after he completes his current sentence of seven years.

Sentencing had been delayed so that a social inquiry report could be obtained and counsel could present submissions as to what sentence fit the offense.

Crown counsel Darlene Oko said the starting point for burglary of a commercial premises was four years; the range of sentence was two to six years. With Liberal’s previous convictions and other aggravating factors, Ms. Oko said six years would be appropriate and that term should be consecutive to the term Liberal is serving now.

Defense attorney Crister Brady did not necessarily disagree, but he asked the judge to consider totality. He made this point because Liberal is currently serving seven years for the armed robbery of a courier outside the British-Caymanian Building on Eastern Avenue, which occurred on Oct. 4, 2012. Liberal’s sentences after pleading guilty were seven years for possession of an unlicensed firearm and six years for the robbery, which involved three other men who also pleaded guilty.

A sentence of six years added to the current sentence would mean Liberal was looking at 13 years, which was too long, Mr. Brady submitted. He suggested a shorter consecutive sentence or a longer sentence that would run concurrently.

Justice McDonald-Bishop said her sentence would be meaningless if she ran it concurrently.

She reviewed the aggravating features of the burglary and said she could find no mitigating features.

This was not a burglary of an office in an empty building, she pointed out. There were tourists as well as long-term residents staying at the resort. This was not just a crime against a business; it was also a crime against the tourist industry, the judge observed.

Liberal had maintained his innocence, so there was no remorse, no return of the stolen monies, and no cooperation with police.

The burglary was pre-planned, well-orchestrated and executed, the judge said.

She pointed to aspects of the offense as summarized by Ms. Oko: the planned approach to the office, the by-passing of security measures; the carrying of tools to undo the bolts; the use of a dolly to remove the safe from the premises.

CCTV showed the arrival and departure of a particular vehicle.

The case for the prosecution, conducted by senior Crown counsel Tricia Hutchinson, included the fact that Liberal had access to that vehicle. The judge said she had accepted evidence that Liberal had admitted to a crony that he removed the safe with another person. A glove worn by the burglar was similar or identical to one found at Liberal’s premises. One CCTV camera showed a person maneuvering a dolly with the safe: analysis of that person’s height matched Liberal. There was also phone evidence to support the charge.

Considering all the circumstances of the offense and the offender, Justice McDonald-Bishop concluded that six years was the appropriate sentence. She explained that the term imposed had to be a deterrent to Liberal and others of like mind who believe they can commit offenses and then ask that the offenses all be treated as one when they get to court.

Having concluded that six years was the appropriate sentence, she then posed her final question – was it just and proportional?

Noting that all three offenses were very serious, and viewing them globally, she weighed them and determined that 12 years was appropriate. She therefore reduced the six years for burglary and imposed five years instead.

Mr. Brady had also submitted that the burglary sentence could be concurrent on the basis that the burglary had been committed “during a relatively short period of offending.” Ms. Oko had disagreed, saying the robbery had nothing to do with the burglary.