Ronnie Rodney Ebanks was found guilty on Friday of indecently assaulting a female visitor in the Seven Mile Beach condo where she was staying with her son in February.
Ebanks, 48, had pleaded not guilty and elected trial by judge alone. Justice Marva McDonald-Bishop heard the matter in August and delivered her verdict via video link.
The issue was one of identification, she pointed out. The victim had been awakened by a whimpering sound and she at first thought it was her son because he had suffered a migraine the night before. She asked if he was all right.
Then she realized the person had a shirt pulled over his head; he was not wearing any pants or shoes. Her told the woman to touch him, telling her he would not use his gun.
In a statement read to the court, the woman said it was a very scary incident and she went through a lot of emotions. When the man mentioned his gun, she knew she had to be careful not to involve her son, who was in another room.
She said she could not see the intruder’s face. After he left, she called 911. Officers attended and collected evidence that included swabs from the woman’s hands.
Defense counsel Ben Tonner had argued that the woman’s description of the intruder did not match the defendant.
Justice McDonald-Bishop agreed, but pointed out that the quality of the woman’s identification evidence would be extremely poor in the circumstances. She had been lying down, looking up from her bed, in the dark, having just been awakened. The judge found her description to be unreliable and went on to consider the DNA evidence.
Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards brought an expert witness to give evidence about the DNA. Mr. Tonner questioned the integrity and reliability of the DNA samples.
The judge found there was no evidence to suggest that the DNA material had been compromised or contaminated. She pointed out that Ebanks was not even in custody when the material was collected. She also rejected the notion that Ebanks’s DNA was transferred indirectly.
Justice McDonald-Bishop said she found the expert witness to be truthful, reliable and objective, with the necessary skill and knowledge to assist the court. Any discrepancies had been resolved in favor of the defendant. The tests were conducted “on a defendant-friendly basis.”
She concluded that she was satisfied the Crown had established a case against Ebanks that warranted an answer “if he had one.” However, he had chosen not to give evidence.
Ebanks was also charged with burglary with intent to steal. Two days after the incident, the victim had discovered some $200 missing from her wallet. The judge said there was too much of a gap in time to link Ebanks to the missing money without more evidence. “The inference that he stole the cash is not one I am prepared to draw,” she said.
Sentencing was set for Friday, Oct. 27, when Justice McDonald-Bishop is scheduled to be in Cayman for another matter.
Cayman Compass archives show that Ebanks previously received a sentence of 10 years for burglary with intent to rape after pleading guilty following an incident in July 2009. The judge imposing that sentence said he took into account the fact that Ebanks had been released from prison just two or three weeks earlier after serving a sentence of 12 years for rape.