Ato Modibo Stephens will be allowed to remain in the Cayman Islands despite a court’s recommendation that he be deported following his conviction last year for convincing a 14-year-old girl to send him topless photos of herself.
The decision not to authorize the Grand Court’s recommendation was made by Cabinet, Ministry of Home Affairs officials confirmed Monday.
According to court records, Mr. Stephens was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment on Aug. 3, 2017. The sentence resulted from a guilty verdict on one charge of using an information and communication technology (ICT) network to annoy, harass or abuse the underage female. Mr. Stephens was found not guilty of indecent assault or gross indecency allegations made by the same victim.
The track coach and former international track star’s sentence will be officially served on Feb. 4, 2019. He currently remains here on conditional release until that time, ministry officials confirmed.
Ministry of Home Affairs Chief Officer Wesley Howell this week confirmed the Cabinet decision that allowed Mr. Stephens to remain in Cayman.
“The Immigration Law (2018 Revision) empowers the courts to recommend that a deportation order should be made in relevant cases, either in addition to or in lieu of sentence,” Mr. Howell’s statement read. “Ultimately, the decision to authorize a deportation rests with the Cabinet. Such decisions are taken after consideration of the facts and circumstances in each particular instance.
“With regard to Mr. Stephens’ case, when weighing all of the circumstances, including the nature of the offence for which he was convicted, and the fact that he has a Caymanian spouse and two Caymanian children, the Cabinet is not considering making a deportation order in this instance at this time.”
According to U.S. court records, Mr. Stephens is originally from Trinidad and Tobago, but he also is an American citizen.
Grand Court Justice Michael Wood said during sentencing for Mr. Stephens in August 2017 that he did not find the teenage girl making the accusations was a liar, but the judge said that was not the legal test. Justice Wood had to be sure of the defendant’s guilt and there was “just enough doubt for me to be not sure,” he said.
The judge said it was perhaps with “a degree of reluctance” that he found Mr. Stephens not guilty of the other charges against him. Justice Wood pointed out that the maximum sentence for using an ICT network to abuse is two years. He considered that Mr. Stephens’s offense had been at the top end of such offending.
The judge further noted that Mr. Stephens had already spent nearly a year in prison at the time of his sentencing. Some of that time was in Florida, where he was arrested after leaving the Cayman Islands. The rest of that time was spent in Cayman prison awaiting trial.
According to Cayman’s Conditional Release Law, the minimum time in prison for a defendant being held on an 18-month prison sentence would be “sixty percent” – in this case about 11 months.
Section 88 of the Immigration Law sets out the rules for deportation of non-Caymanians which involve a convicted person who has been sentenced in the islands to imprisonment “for not less than six months.”
The section further states that “a magistrate shall have reported on the case and the Cabinet, having had regard to the findings of fact and conclusions of law and any recommendation contained in such report, is satisfied that such order may properly be made.”