Solicitor-General to formulate demands in Vesuvius appeals

PHILIPSBURG - The hearing of the appeals in the Vesuvius case, the largest criminal investigation ever carried out in St. Maarten, kicked off Tuesday morning at Belair Community Centre. The first day of hearings was marked by the three-judge panel meticulously going through the extensive files containing the charges against the convicts, who largely declined to answer questions.
The Vesuvius case involves the “volcano” of violence that erupted after Amador Jones was shot and killed near Under the Sun snack bar on Gladiola Road on April 16, 2011. Four days later, Amador Jones’ alleged hit man Omax “Mad Max” B., who currently is detained in St. Kitts and who has not been tried here yet, was shot at with a machine gun at a bus stop on A.Th. Illidge Road near the former Tan Tan Supermarket in Dutch Quarter. Bystander Kennedy Fergus also was shot at. Both men got away because the firearm malfunctioned. Alleged initiator of Amador Jones’ murder Miguel Arrindell was shot and killed by a spray of bullets near Simpson Bay Lagoon on May 25, 2011. His brother Rodolfo was shot and killed in front of his house on Fort Willem Road on July 7, 2011. Eric Lake and Kevin Gumbs were shot and killed at Cat’s Shopping Centre on A.Th. Illidge Road on August 17, 2011. A woman working at the centre’s hair salon was injured.
The hearing in these cases will resume today, Wednesday, with Solicitor-General Taco Stein formulating the Prosecutor’s Office’s demands. His closing speech is expected to include the Prosecutor’s Office’s position on this month’s ruling of the Constitutional Court, which dismissed life sentences without parole.
Main convicts Omar Jones (36) and Carlos Richardson (31), charged with murder, manslaughter, firearm possession and membership in a criminal organisation, were both sentenced to the highest possible sentence, life imprisonment, on November 15, 2012.
The other five convicts are considered accomplices, involved with (attempted) murder and manslaughter, car theft, firearm possession and membership in a criminal organization. Andrew Davis (32), Doniel Thomas (27), Erno Labega (31), Ekron Morgan (36) and Charles Fleming (38) received prison sentences of between five and eight years, considerably lower than the sentences requested by the Prosecutor’s Office, which ranged between eight and 11 years.
All convicts had filed appeals because they did not agree with their sentences and with the charges. The Prosecutor’s Office also has filed appeals in most cases.
Fleming, who was sentenced to five years, at first seemed to consider retracting his appeal, but after brief consultations with attorney Safira Ibrahim he decided to go through with the procedure.
The case against Andrew Davis, who received six years, was postponed until a later date because he had switched lawyers only recently. His new attorney, Jason Rogers, requested the postponement, which was granted.
During a preliminary hearing, the Joint Court had ordered the hearing of eight witnesses. Two of these witnesses were heard on Tuesday.
Efforts by the police to subpoena the six other witnesses proved futile, which led the judges to the conclusion that more efforts to summon them would be “needless.” Omax B. was among these witnesses.
Despite a petition filed with the authorities in St. Kitts for his extradition to St. Maarten, and three requests for permission to question him in the presence of an attorney, Solicitor-General Stein informed the Court that B. had not yet been questioned. When confronted with the charges, the defendants declined to answer most questions. This changed somewhat as they were confronted with their alleged membership in a criminal organisation involved with murder, car theft and drugs.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office the gang’s name was “Coming in Deadly.” Several convicts carry tattoos with the initials “CID” on their bodies, but this was merely a “family thing,” Labega explained. Omar Jones was the organisation’s “boss,” with Labega the second in command, and Richardson and Davis numbers three and four, in the prosecution’s view. “I’m a leader. I don’t have a boss and I’m not a boss,” Labega said in response. He had several run-ins with the law in the United States for dealing drugs between 2001 and 2007.
All convicts, except for Morgan, have previous convictions mentioned in their criminal records.
After the Solicitor-General’s closing statements, the lawyers will be pleading on their clients’ behalf. Morgan’s attorney Ralph Richardson is expected to be the first to mount the podium this afternoon. The other lawyers are expected to hold their pleadings on Thursday. The hearings are expected to be concluded on Friday.
The Appeals Court is expected to give its decision in three weeks’ time.

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