Man sentenced to 14 months for bar stabbing

Victim made full recovery after life-threatening injuries

Travis Arlington Ebanks was sentenced on Wednesday to 14 months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm.

The harm had been life-threatening, defense attorney Nicholas Dixey agreed. If not for the timely intervention of the medical team at the Cayman Islands Hospital, there might have been a different outcome, he said.

Ebanks, 27, was initially charged with attempted murder as the result of an incident at Dencle’s Bar on Mary Street the night of June 16. The victim, Dencle Vic Barnes, sustained knife-inflicted wounds that included a perforated stomach, a punctured spleen and two lung punctures, an injury to his right hand and superficial wounds to his arm and hip. He lost a significant amount of blood as a result.

In court on Tuesday, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran said the first charge was laid after Mr. Barnes made a short statement while he was still in hospital. More recently, Mr. Barnes visited the DPP office and gave a much more detailed account of the incident. As a result, the Crown could offer an amended indictment.

Ebanks, who had already pleaded not guilty to attempted murder, was arraigned again and pleaded not guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent, but guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm (without intent).

Dame Linda Dobbs, acting judge of the Grand Court, entered a not guilty verdict to the first charge and adjourned sentencing until the next day.

On Wednesday, Mr. Moran set out events leading to the charge. He said Ebanks had been at the bar most of the afternoon. Mr. Barnes, son of the original owner, arrived at the bar after 5 p.m. He and Ebanks had known each other several years and there were no disagreements between them.

Later they visited bars on Seven Mile Beach together and returned at Dencle’s Bar after 11 p.m. A bartender told Mr. Barnes that Ebanks had a bar tab of $50 which he had not paid. Mr. Barnes asked Ebanks to clear his tab, but Ebanks indicated he did not have enough money and would clear it up the next day. There was also some exchange of words when Ebanks said he was missing his cellphone.

Mr. Barnes told Ebanks to leave and then went out on the patio to smoke a cigarette and calm down. After he returned inside and sat down, Ebanks re-entered the bar. Mr. Barnes tried to grab him to prevent him from coming in and there was a struggle that lasted no more than 30 seconds, Mr. Moran related. During that time, Mr. Barnes was stabbed several times.

Mr. Moran acknowledged that the stabbing was not premeditated.

The judge asked where the knife had come from.

Mr. Dixey replied that “a knife was produced during the altercation” and Ebanks used it in self-defense, but he conceded that his response was not proportionate.

The judge said that more than one stab wound would indicate that Ebanks “went over the top” in defending himself.

There was no independent evidence to undermine Ebanks’s claim of self-defense.
Mr. Moran said no one present in the bar came forward to give a witness statement.

In her sentencing remarks, Justice Dobbs noted that CCTV footage from inside the bar had not been preserved in its entirety due to a mistake by one of the police officers in the case, but it was likely that the struggle occurred in a blind spot not covered by the camera.

In fact, new information did emerge that showed Ebanks had been hit on the head with a bottle. There was glass on the floor of the bar, and three days after the incident he was examined medically and found to have a lump and a bruise.

It was accepted that an outside camera showed Ebanks leaving the bar with a large knife after the incident. A female bartender called 911 and Mr. Barnes’s brother. The brother arrived before police and took the injured man to hospital.

Ebanks was arrested at his George Town residence early the next morning. He said he intended to go in to the police later, and maintained he had acted in self-defense.

Mr. Dixey acknowledged that Mr. Barnes was in hospital seven days. Fortunately the injuries were not permanent and the scarring that resulted from the wounds and surgical treatment did not involve the face, he pointed out.

The judge said this was a difficult offense to categorize. The serious injuries and use of a weapon put it in the highest category of harm caused. The fact that Ebanks did not initiate the incident and the fact that he did sustain some injury put the offense in the middle category in terms of culpability.

Ebanks had some previous convictions, she noted, but nothing for violence.

She said the sentencing range would be one-and-a-half to four years and she used a starting point of two years. Balancing the aggravating and mitigating factors, she arrived at 21 months. With full credit for Ebanks’s guilty plea, the sentence was 14 months.

The court had also been told that Ebanks had gratuitously damaged the tires on Mr. Barnes’s vehicle. Mr. Dixey said his client did this because he was afraid and thought Mr. Barnes would pursue him.