Premier: Ato Stephens deportation approved

Ato Stephens

The Cayman Islands Cabinet has approved a deportation order for local track coach Ato Modibo Stephens for March 16, “or as soon thereafter as can be arranged” by immigration authorities, according to an announcement made Wednesday by Premier Alden McLaughlin’s office.

It is now up to the governor’s office to sign the deportation order, the premier’s office said.

“Mr. Stephens was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Aug. 4, 2017, and the court recommended his deportation following completion of his sentence,” the statement read. “His case was heard by the Conditional Release Board in November, 2017, and Mr. Stephens was granted conditional release from prison until the completion of his sentence.”

Mr. Stephens has been released on license from prison since November 2017, but the conditional release license expired on Feb. 15, 2018, according to the premier’s office statement on Wednesday.

An earlier statement on the matter by government officials indicated Mr. Stephens’ sentence on an ICT charge would be officially served by Feb. 4, 2019.

Mr. Stephens’ prison sentence resulted from a conviction on one charge of using an information and communication technology network to annoy, harass or abuse an underage female. He was found not guilty by Grand Court Judge Michael Wood of other charges of indecent assault or gross indecency.

According to U.S. court records, Mr. Stephens is originally from Trinidad and Tobago, but he also is an American citizen.

Justice 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’ 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.

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