A modified flare gun was not loaded, but the victims of a daylight robbery did not know that, Justice Michael Wood pointed out on Friday.
He was sentencing Gerado George Conolly, 26, who pleaded guilty to robbery at the Lookout Gardens Fresh Fruits and Juice store in Bodden Town on June 15, 2017. Mr. Conolly also pleaded guilty to possession of an unlicensed firearm, theft of a cellphone and car keys from another person in the store, and damage to property.
Justice Wood said the robbery sentence would have been 12 years, but he reduced it to eight because of the guilty plea. The firearm sentence was the mandatory seven years, made concurrent, as was the theft sentence, but the damage sentence was one year consecutive for a total of nine years.
Senior Crown counsel Nicole Petit said police received a report around 3:15 p.m. that a man had entered the store with what appeared to be a firearm and had demanded that the clerk open the cash register. She complied and he stole a quantity of cash.
The robber then approached another person in the store and threatened her with the weapon. He stole her cellphone and her keys to a 2017 Ford Explorer. Leaving the store, he escaped by driving away in the Explorer and heading east.
Ms. Petit said police were conducting a vehicle check at the Frank Sound junction and they observed a Ford Explorer coming toward them. Then the vehicle turned around and headed back toward Bodden Town. Officers pursued the Explorer, which was being driven in excessive speed and in a reckless manner.
The vehicle crashed into a utility pole guy wire near the Lighthouse Restaurant and Mr. Conolly surrendered. Arrested and cautioned, he told officers, “The gun inside the car, you can’t kill me in front of these Caymanians. I did the robbery, I ready to go to jail.”
Defense attorney Prathna Bodden pointed out that the flare gun was operable when an expert put cartridges in it, but when Mr. Conolly had it for the robbery, there were no cartridges in it.
Justice Wood replied that was “a difference without a difference, as far as the victims were concerned. They didn’t know it wasn’t loaded.”
He summarized the defendant’s offending behavior, including an admission of using drugs. Mr. Conolly had robbed a person who was providing a service to the public. Then he had caused what, to the judge’s mind, was gratuitous damage to the almost-new vehicle.
Justice Wood did not note the amount of damage, but when Mr. Conolly pleaded guilty in January, the court was told that the damage to the Explorer was in excess of $3,000.
Justice Wood commented on the depressing frequency with which young men were being sentenced for unlicensed firearms, but pointed out, “Anyone dealing with firearms, particularly in Cayman, knows what’s going to happen to him.”