Christine Rae-Smith, a former personal assistant to two MLAs, was sentenced on Tuesday to 12 years’ imprisonment for her role in the armed robbery of a George Town beauty salon in July 2015.
Rae-Smith, 38, had pleaded not guilty and elected trial by judge alone. Justice Charles Quin found her guilty in December 2016.
Co-defendant Paul Winston Myles was sentenced to nine years for his role and Antonio Elvis Kelly received eight years. Both men pleaded guilty at an early stage.
The defendants were charged with three counts of robbery, relating to the salon co-owner and two women in the salon at the time. They were also charged with possession of imitation firearms with intent to commit an offense.
Justice Quin noted that the firearms had not been recovered. One could only speculate what the guns had been used for since the robbery, he remarked.
Summarizing the case, he said two masked men dressed in black had entered the salon, Elegant Nails and More, on the evening of July 10, 2015. One man had a long gun described as a rifle, the other a handgun.
The co-owner of the salon thought it was a prank until the taller of the men put his gun to her face and told her to give him the pouch. The woman explained that the pouch had contained the day’s earnings, but she had given that money to a staff member who had left the salon a few minutes earlier.
Two women handed over valuables. The robbers took cellphones, jewelry and $693 in cash.
Justice Quin said Rae-Smith had orchestrated the timing of the robbery. She had visited the salon earlier in the day to get “the lay of the land,” he said. She had returned that evening to have her hair done and had been in phone contact with Myles – the pair had exchanged 11 texts during the 12 or 13 minutes before the robbery.
Rae-Smith had challenged the robbers, and one of the victims thought that this brazen act would get them all killed. “It was a terrifying experience they will never forget,” he said of the victims.
Each of the three defendants had a clearly defined role, the judge said. It was a joint enterprise, with one other culprit not yet identified – Myles admitting to being the getaway driver, and Kelly one of the gunmen.
Justice Quin said the three defendants seemed to blame each other, but any one of them could have pulled out at any time. They were all adults who had to take responsibility for their actions.
During her trial, Rae-Smith had tried to blame one of the salon staff members.
During the investigation into the crime, one of the phones used to communicate before the robbery was found by police in a cistern. Texts on that phone between Myles and Rae-Smith implicated all parties.
Defense attorney Lee Halliday-Davis spoke on behalf on Rae-Smith, who had no previous convictions. She had worked a personal assistant to George Town MLAs Roy McTaggart and Winston Connolly, and had formed a beach-cleaning business with Mr. Connolly. She had lost that job and the business. She suffered from a chronic degenerative disease and was in constant pain from a herniated disc, the court heard.
Attorney Amelia Fosuhene spoke for Myles, 41, describing him as a good family man, but someone who was eager to please more dominant personalities. He had accepted that his victims would have been terrified and if he had thought about it ahead of time, he would never have let himself get involved, she said.
Attorney Prathna Bodden spoke in mitigation for Kelly, submitting that he was exploited by the others, with no evidence he was involved in the planning.
Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran advised on sentencing. With a possible term of life imprisonment, the guidelines suggested a nine-year starting point and a range of seven to 14 years.
Justice Quin said the facts and prolonged nature of this robbery aggravated the offense. Starting with 12 years for Rae-Smith, he then gave Myles a 25 percent reduction, since Myles had pleaded guilty but then tried unsuccessfully to change his plea.
Justice Quin gave the full one-third credit to Kelly, for a sentence of eight years. He considered guilty pleas to several other charges that included burglary and handling stolen goods and passed sentences ranging from three months to two and a half years. On the principle of totality, he made these all run concurrently with the robbery sentence.
A term of four years was made consecutive for the offense of causing death by careless driving, in a separate incident, with the result that Kelly’s total sentence was 12 years.