A red-faced tourist appeared in Summary Court on Friday, when he pleaded guilty to damaging an ATM machine and possession of ganja and utensils used in the consumption of ganja.
Defense attorney Crister Brady told the court that Matthew Thaler, 30, was red in the face not only because he was embarrassed, but also because he had sustained first- and second-degree burns to his face and body from too much sun. He was taken to hospital for treatment after his arrest.
“He came on vacation for some sun, sand and sea,” Mr. Brady told Magistrate Adam Roberts. “Unfortunately, he had more sun than he intended.”
Thaler also admitted he had too many alcoholic drinks and became intoxicated.
Thaler’s condition was complicated by the fact that he was on prescription drugs, which the attorney named and explained their use.
Crown counsel Eleanor Fargin detailed the charges. She said police received a call around 10:17 p.m. on Thursday, June 1, about a man using a piece of steel and trying to open an automatic teller machine at a bank branch on West Bay Road.
Officers attended and processed the scene. The man was not there, but they dusted for fingerprints and checked the CCTV, noting transactions. They found that the ATM was being used at the time by Thaler.
Police then checked with immigration officials and found where Thaler was staying. On Tuesday, June 6, they went to the hotel, where they arrested and cautioned him. They took him to hospital for treatment for his burns and he admitted he had gone to beach, got sunburned and drunk.
He said he went to the ATM to get money for a taxi, but he had cash on him. He acknowledged he was at the machine when it was damaged, but he was not sure why he damaged it. He said he had no intention to steal and no such charge was laid.
Mr. Brady indicated that the defendant accepted the summary of facts. Thaler had tried to use a credit card that did not work in the ATM, he said. The reaction of his medication plus sun and alcohol “had a very adverse effect on his behavior.”
Thaler’s U.S. prescription for medical marijuana was of no use to him here, the attorney conceded.
“He is very remorseful and apologetic and wants the bank to know that. He is concerned to find himself in a strange place in frightening conditions,” Mr. Brady concluded.
Arrangements were being made to have a family member send money to compensate the bank.
Ms. Fargin advised that Thaler had been in custody since his arrest. She said the bank had confirmed that $3,000 would cover the cost of parts to repair the ATM.
The magistrate said he was giving Thaler full credit for his guilty pleas at the earliest opportunity. Visitors must be aware that Cayman expects proper behavior, notwithstanding susceptibility to too much alcohol and sun – which is one of the attractions of the island, he acknowledged.
The magistrate accepted that Thaler had been in custody for four days and sentenced him to four days’ imprisonment for the damage to property. He said the defendant could be prevented from leaving until the compensation was paid.
Told that Thaler had $500 cash, the magistrate fined him $300 for possession of ganja and $200 for possession of two ganja pipes. Those amounts are in the range of fines typically imposed for ganja offenses.
The defendant asked, “Once I pay I’m free to go?”
The magistrate said yes, adding that the police officer in the case would arrange a flight.
“I sincerely apologize to you and the Cayman Islands,” Thaler said.
“Have a safe flight home,” the magistrate replied.