Posing for a photo while holding a gun led Matthew Carlyle Ebanks to court last year and then to prison for 268 days.
Mr. Ebanks was released from custody on Thursday after Justice Michael Wood sentenced him for possession of an unlicensed Colt .45 semi-automatic handgun. The sentence includes a suspended term and supervision order.
Crown counsel Eleanor Fargin and defense attorney Crister Brady had agreed that the possession was for a very short time. That fact was accepted by the court as an exceptional circumstance.
In passing sentence, Justice Wood referred to the background of the case. There was a shooting incident at a nightclub parking lot in the early hours of Feb. 4, 2017. Police investigations led to a West Bay residence where a firearm was found in the cistern of a toilet.
Also found at the residence was a phone. When officers checked it, they found photos of various people holding the gun. Mr. Ebanks was in a photo holding the gun on his own. Analysis subsequently indicated that the gun was the one used in the February shooting.
The defendant initially pleaded not guilty, but then asked for a direction from the court as to what his sentence would be if he did plead guilty. He was told three and a half years.
In a special hearing, it was submitted that Mr. Ebanks had been subjected to force – that he had been coerced into holding the gun for the photo. The judge did not accept this to be true.
Justice Wood remarked that this case was different from another case in which the wife of one of the defendants in the shooting matter was also in a phone photo with a gun. In her case, her husband had his arm around her; they had recently married and there was evidence he was a controlling man who exerted a lot of influence on her. She had no previous convictions and received a suspended sentence.
The judge noted that Mr. Ebanks, 31, did have previous convictions, but not related to firearms. He also observed that the defendant had never been in custody before.
“I’m going to give you a chance by giving you a split sentence,” the judge told him. If Mr. Ebanks were applying for release after serving 60 percent of a sentence, then the 268 days in custody would be the equivalent of 445 days.
The judge therefore imposed a term of 445 days and said his intention was that Mr. Ebanks be released that day. “If I got my math wrong, let me know,” he told Mr. Brady.
The second part of the sentence was 18 months suspended for two years, but with conditions. Mr. Ebanks must be tested for drugs twice per week for six months. He is to attend Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous twice per week, and attend any program or counseling sessions recommended by his counselor.
The judge warned that if Mr. Ebanks breached any of the conditions or committed a new imprisonable offense, he would go straight back to prison.