A judge on Tuesday sentenced Jose Guadalupe Sanchez to 14 years in prison for two counts of gun possession.
Justice Charles Quin, in a judge-alone trial, found Sanchez guilty in August of possessing a semiautomatic 9mm pistol at the Everglo Bar in Bodden Town on the night of July 4, 2015. Sanchez had pleaded guilty to a charge relating to possession of an unlicensed firearm in Cruz Lane, George Town, about four weeks earlier.
The court had heard that Sanchez had gone to Cruz Lane looking for someone and had fired two shots in the air and one at the ground. Justice Quin described this act as menacing and violent, meant to frighten people. It did – and police found it difficult to get anyone to come forward and provide a statement.
The gun was the same one Sanchez carried in Bodden Town.
Justice Quin imposed eight years for the Cruz Lane possession, concurrent with the 14 years for the second possession.
Sanchez has previously been in court twice on murder charges. He was acquitted both times. He was among three men accused of the 2010 killing of Aldrick Peddie and was also accused of murdering Special Olympics athletes Solomon Webster in 2014.
Couple hailed for assisting in case
Two people initially charged along with Sanchez for possession of an unlicensed firearm also received their sentences on Tuesday. Neither was given a custodial sentence, in recognition of their assistance in the Crown’s case against Sanchez.
Ashley Terry, 27, and Sean Luke Dunbar, 22, were charged with Sanchez following the Everglo Bar incident.
Terry had no conviction recorded against her after pleading guilty to being an accessory after the fact. The allegation was that she had concealed the firearm with intent to impede Sanchez’s prosecution. Justice Quin said her courageous assistance and cooperation were so exceptional that they justified a non-custodial sentence. He told her the law that allows for no conviction to be recorded “could have been drafted with you in mind.”
Dunbar pleaded guilty to possession of an unlicensed firearm and received a sentence of 18 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years.
Justice Quin said he wanted to demonstrate that it is worthwhile to cooperate with authorities.
The couple had gone to the bar that night with friends to celebrate their engagement. There was no evidence they went with Sanchez. They knew him because he had recently moved near to where they lived.
Both gave evidence against Sanchez during his trial.
The evidence was that Sanchez had a loaded 9mm semiautomatic pistol on him when he arrived at the bar and made repeated attempts to enter, but was refused. He told the security guard he needed the gun for protection, but far from being afraid, he displayed a “brazen” attitude, Justice Quin said.
Police were called and when they arrived, Sanchez tried to off-load the gun on Dunbar, who refused it both verbally and physically. Sanchez then suddenly changed his tack, the judge said, by forcing the gun under Terry’s blouse and walking away.
When she realized what it was, it was too late. He was angry and she was terrified.
She said she did not know if the gun was real, but it felt real because it was heavy. She thought if she dropped it, it might go off and hurt someone, so she placed it behind a parked vehicle, the court heard.
Dunbar then picked up the gun out of concern for Terry and out of fear of Sanchez; his intention was to throw the gun into a pond near where they lived.
Justice Quin said this was Dunbar’s error in judgment: rather than give the gun to police, he stuck it in his pocket and left the scene.
Police followed the couple and Dunbar was arrested outside the couple’s apartment. He gave a statement the next day and subsequently pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.
Terry gave a “no comment” interview, but then asked to speak to the officer in charge. The Crown did not proceed with the charge of possessing an unlicensed firearm.
Terry’s decision to give evidence was not easy, he added. She had felt intimidated by Sanchez. All she had wanted was to live in peace and get back to her family.
On the night of the incident, she and Dunbar “got caught up in an absolute nightmare that was not of your making,” the judge commented.
The only condition to her discharge is that she be of good behavior for the next two years, report to the Department of Community Rehabilitation as required and submit to drug testing as required.
Justice Quin noted that Dunbar’s involvement was different, but his assistance was “extremely brave and invaluable.” He had been on bail after spending 60 days in custody and it would not be in the public interest to return him to jail, the judge said. The judge said that because of Dunbar’s exceptional and immediate assistance and then his evidence in court, the sentence of 18 months could be suspended for two years.
Dunbar will have to observe a curfew for the first three months, attend counseling as directed by his probation officer, submit to drug testing, and perform 100 hours of community service.