Gerald Jaleel Bush and Rico Roy Walton were both sentenced to 10 years in prison on Tuesday after being found guilty on three charges of possession of unlicensed firearms in August.
The men were convicted of trying to hide two firearms and some ammunition under the “shoe tree” in South Sound on June 25, 2017. The pair had been seen in a boat in the sound by officers aboard the police helicopter.
The mandatory minimum sentence for possessing unlicensed firearms is 10 years, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
Grand Court Justice Francis Belle gave a brief explanation over video link as to why he chose not to deviate from the mandatory minimum.
The prosecution had argued that an aggravating factor was that the guns – a 9 mm Trabzon and a loaded Colt .45 – could have been found by a child, which would have led to “tragic consequences.”
But Justice Belle said the men were not trying to dispose of the firearms under the shoe tree, but were only trying to hide them there for a short period of time.
The defense had also sought to make the age difference between Mr. Bush, 21, and Mr. Walton, 29, a mitigating factor, according to Justice Belle. But, he said, they should be sentenced equally, in part because they “acted as a team” in their crime.
The judge commented that the 10-year sentence should be “long enough to have a serious impact on the defendants, but not so long to get them lost in the criminal system.”
Both men had denied the charge, claiming that they had been returning to shore from a fishing trip.
During the trial, the court heard from Police Constable Ronnie Pollard, tactical flight officer with the Air Operations Unit, which runs the police helicopter. The jury was shown film footage taken from the helicopter on June 24, 2017, going into the early hours of June 25. Narrating what was being seen on screen, PC Pollard explained that the camera on board operated by thermal imaging, which means that the camera can pick up things that emit heat, even if it is dark.
Mr. Pollard said it showed a small vessel outside the reef, then coming through the South Sound channel at three minutes after midnight. The vessel had two individuals aboard. It headed toward Old Crewe Road, where one person disembarked. The vessel then traveled near the shore. In the area of Cayman Crossing, around 12:38 a.m., a person is seen walking from one tree to another and then back, after which the boat leaves and comes to shore at the South Sound dock.
Mr. Pollard said he transmitted these movements via radio to police units on the ground.
Deputy Commissioner Kurt Walton, who was on the ground, said during the trial that he and a police constable were returning from the Drugs Task Force base via Shamrock Road and South Sound. As a result of what he was hearing over the police radio, they pulled over on South Sound Road near a casuarina tree commonly referred to as the “shoe tree” or “flip-flop tree.”
He said he observed a man in a small boat about 25 feet from shore. When he shone his vehicle headlights on the boat, it turned and headed toward the South Sound dock.
He then got out of his vehicle and walked on the beach to the tree. After searching around the roots of the tree with his flashlight, he saw a black sock and the butt of a gun in the sock. Looking more closely, he saw a second butt of a gun.
A jury of five women and two men had returned unanimous guilty verdicts on the two defendants on Aug. 14.