An American visitor who flew his own plane to Cayman Brac last week ended up staying in the jurisdiction longer than planned after a loaded revolver was found in his flight bag.
Paul Arthur Grenier, 54, appeared in Summary Court on Wednesday afternoon, when he pleaded guilty to possession of an unlicensed .22 Magnum revolver and 10 rounds of live ammunition at Charles Kirkconnell International Airport on Jan. 19.
Defense attorney Jonathon Hughes told Magistrate Angelyn Hernandez that Grenier has a firearms license in his home state of Georgia. He carried the gun as part of his flying gear out of a genuine concern that the aircraft could be subject to being hijacked.
The gun was never an issue in the United States, Mr. Hughes pointed out, and the defendant’s trips outside the U.S. were rare. This trip to the Brac was with friends for diving.
After hearing the facts and further mitigation, the magistrate accepted that there were exceptional circumstances (which meant that the mandatory minimum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment did not have to be imposed). She fined Grenier $8,000 and recorded a conviction against him after pointing out that this was a lenient sentence for a serious offense. She also ordered that the gun and ammunition be forfeited.
The magistrate commented that Grenier probably wanted to get back to the Brac, get his plane and go home. The defendant agreed, acknowledging to the court that he was “scared to death.”
Crown counsel Scott Wainwright provided a summary of facts. He said Grenier was attempting to go to his aircraft around 10 a.m. and informed officers of his intention when he reached the airport security screening area. He was told his bag would have to be examined and at this stage he told officers he had a weapon.
When questioned, he said it was a firearm. He also stated that he did not see anywhere on the form to declare it when he arrived. A supervisor was called; the bag was screened through X-ray and the image of a firearm was observed.
Grenier and his bag were turned over to a customs officer. Asked if he had a firearm import license, Grenier said no, but he produced his Georgia license.
The bag was opened and a black cloth bag was revealed. It contained the revolver and five rounds of ammunition wrapped in plastic, plus another five rounds in the revolver. Grenier was cautioned and arrested. His aircraft was searched, but no prohibited or restricted goods were recovered.
Transported to the Creek Police Station, Grenier opted to give an interview without an attorney present. He said he had forgotten the revolver was in his bag until he got to the security checkpoint, where he indicated he had it in his bag.
He was granted bail with a cash surety in the sum of $2,500 and his travel documents were surrendered. He was directed to report to the Detention Center in George Town on Jan. 25 at 10 a.m.
Mr. Hughes took up the account from that point. He explained that Grenier arrived in Grand Cayman aboard a commercial flight and walked with his luggage from the airport to the detention center, where he subsequently made contact with Mr. Hughes.
In court, the attorney pointed out that his client’s gun was legal and only became illegal when it crossed the border. He suggested that Cayman’s Firearm Law was meant to protect the public from unlicensed guns held by people with illegal intentions.
Grenier was a responsible citizen, a senior vice president of a large construction company and a family man.
As to the question of having anything to declare on arrival, he had been thinking of things like seeds, food or alcohol. He had not realized how serious the matter of the firearm was.
Mr. Hughes noted that visitors found with bullets in their luggage typically are ordered to pay costs and they have no conviction recorded against them. He requested a similar disposal for Grenier.
The magistrate found that there were exceptional circumstances affecting sentence, but said the matter was too serious for her even to consider not recording a conviction. She also directed that the fine be paid before Grenier could return to the Brac to access his plane.