Private sector and government CCTV helped police identify and prosecute a man who was sentenced this week to four years’ imprisonment for indecently assaulting a woman to whom he had offered a ride home.
Magistrate Valdis Foldats told defendant Chaz Leo Kadri Powery, 30, that his actions in the early hours of April 14 bordered on the crimes of abduction and attempted rape. With a maximum sentence of 10 years for the offense of indecent assault, the magistrate fixed six years as the appropriate sentence but then gave one-third discount for the guilty pleas.
Facts and mitigation were set out last week, when Crown counsel Darlene Oko explained that the victim had been at a hotel bar with friends, but left alone and decided to walk home. At a point along West Bay Road, a man stopped his vehicle and offered her a ride. She did not know him, but she accepted the offer.
The court heard that rather than take her home, he drove to a secluded area where he assaulted her. Then, while driving to another area, he assaulted her again. He took her phone before driving her home.
Ms. Oko said the woman reported the matter the next morning, detailing where she had been and approximately what time she had left. Police checked CCTV outside the hotel. It showed her leaving and walking toward West Bay Road. Officers then checked government cameras in the area where she said the man had offered her a ride. The CCTV showed a vehicle stopping and driving off.
By continuing to track the vehicle by means of cameras at different points, officers were able to identify the color and make of the vehicle and its license number, which led them to the owner – Powery – several days later.
He admitted picking up the woman, but initially claimed she was the sexual aggressor.
Ms. Oko suggested it was an aggravating factor that the man was a stranger to his victim: “Not knowing what he is capable of is more terrifying,” she argued. The magistrate replied that an aggressor is either a stranger or else is known to the victim, in which case the offense is breach of trust.
Defense attorney John Furniss read from the social inquiry report and victim impact report. He said the young woman seemed to be level-headed and sensible; she was dealing with a traumatic event in a practical way. He said Powery had instructed him to apologize to the woman through the court. Ms. Oko said any woman should feel safe walking along the street and even accepting a ride.
The magistrate summarized the offenses in his sentencing remarks. He said Powery’s actions had verged on abduction, although he was not charged with that offense. He had by deceitful means induced the woman to accept a lift and then “callously detoured to a secluded area for his own malicious purposes. This was not a momentary lapse of judgment while under the influence of alcohol resulting in a boorish sexual touching; this was a sustained confinement that began with deception and escalated to persistent and terrifying violence and threats,” he said.
Powery had treated the woman as an object for his own sexual gratification, he continued, “forcibly grabbing the victim, positioning her and partially stripping her with the express aim of sexual intercourse despite her active resistance. This represents a clear threat of rape, a nightmare scenario – the inherent gravity of which was obvious.”
Powery had exposed himself to the woman and told her he wanted sex despite her protests and resistance. The magistrate said sexual crimes will be denounced and deterred through severe sentences. Cayman is small, he noted, and he hoped the message would be heard clearly and forcefully.
Another point he considered was that Powery took his victim from a tourist area. “The fact that he initially struck in a tourist area is a serious aggravating factor that affects the islands as a whole and, on its own, merits specific and firm emphasis,” he said.
Powery’s remorse had been called into question, given the false narrative he had provided to the probation officer. However, he later accepted his guilt and wrote a letter of apology. The magistrate said he interpreted the false story as an act arising out of fear of imprisonment and separation from family that would result. The remorse was accepted as a mitigating factor.
In giving a full one-third credit for Powery’s guilty plea, the magistrate said offenders must be encouraged to “come clean” and accept responsibility for their actions. He pointed out that a defendant could plead not guilty and exercise his right to have a trial, even when the outcome would be inevitable. That would be a waste of time, energy and expense. In a sexual assault case, sparing the victim from the trauma of testifying was perhaps the most important benefit of a guilty plea, he pointed out.