A young American tourist got a break when he appeared in Summary Court on Wednesday and pleaded guilty to possession of an unlicensed firearm – a live round of ammunition in his backpack.
Michael Baiamonte, who recently turned 19, was ordered to pay costs of $500 instead of the usual $1,000 magistrates typically impose on visitors found with a bullet in their luggage.
In this case, Crown counsel Kenneth Ferguson said, the young man presented himself for security screening at Owen Roberts International Airport before departure for Cayman Brac on Monday, July 24.
The X-ray machine showed the bullet in a mesh pocket of the backpack. Baiamonte told officers he had carried ammunition in the backpack when he was on a ranch in New Mexico with his father. He admitted he did not have a firearm license in the U.S., Mr. Ferguson told the court.
Baiamonte, who was not legally represented, apologized for wasting the court’s time. He said he did not know the bullet was in the backpack. “I was just as surprised as security was,” he told Magistrate Grace Donalds.
He asked if she would consider waiving a fine. Because of his detainment, he explained, “We do not have much cash left.” His family had been on their way to Cayman Brac, where they had planned to stay until this coming Monday, he told the court.
The magistrate said she had to inform Baiamonte that Cayman’s courts regard this type of offense with much seriousness. She accepted that he had the bullet by mistake, as these matters involving tourists commonly seemed to be.
Taking into consideration his age and particular circumstances, she ordered him to pay prosecution costs of $500 or serve two weeks in lieu. She said she would not record any criminal conviction against him.
A customs officer in court indicated that Baiamonte had posted a $1,000 cash bond in order to be bailed after his arrest. The magistrate agreed that the $500 could be paid out of that amount.
“Please exercise far greater care in the future,” she advised.