A FORMER national footballer who is charged in connection with the burglary of firearms from the armoury at the Georgetown police station will be sentenced on Monday, August 16, 2021.
But, Grant Connell, counsel for Myron Samuel of Layou, has urged the court not to impose a custodial sentence on his 28 year old client.
However, the prosecution is gunning for a serious message to be sent. A back and forth of submissions were volleyed between the defence and prosecution at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court(KMC) on Wednesday, August 11, where Samuel who previously entered a ‘not guilty’ plea to three firearm related offences, changed two of his pleas two days ago.
On June 17, in Layou, Samuel had a Glock 22 pistol, serial number LNL 144, as well as 15 rounds of .40mm ammunition without a license; he admitted to possessing them.
However, he has maintained his innocence to a charge that he, knowing or believing one Glock 22 LNL 144 and 15 rounds of .40mm ammunition to be stolen goods, did dishonestly receive it for his own benefit.
Subsequently, the prosecution chose to withdraw the charge related to receiving stolen goods as the matter was being dealt with before Senior Magistrate, Rickie Burnett.
Connell argued that the offender, a shop keeper and father of a daughter, is an ex-footballer who has dedicated much of his life to the national football efforts, but is now struggling with a debilitating disease that has him on the bench and in excruciating pain. The young man with a clean record, was apparently receiving threats, and was concerned as a shopkeeper.
The facts in this case are that the police were investigating the burglary of the police armoury at Georgetown, from which three Glock pistols, an M4 Rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were reported missing. Several persons were detained and, having received certain information, the police were dispatched to Samuel’s home armed with a search warrant. The firearm and ammunition were found in Samuel’s possession, which resulted in him being arrested and charged. While the Glock was loaded, there were no bullets in the breach.
The defence counsel mitigated that Samuel is a “son of the soil” who “from a very early age was spotted as being one of the potential greats for St Vincent.” He has been deemed a most outstanding player on several occasion and was the youngest member to join the national football team. He was also captain of the national team and “many a times caused the roars of Arnos Vale to go up” as he “beat many a defence.”
Connell was armed with many documents, including a social inquiry report which detailed Samuel’s medical condition, avascular necrosis, confirmed by a medical doctor. There is a hospital in Cuba where efforts have been made to get him for treatment, and his pain has been ongoing since 2018. Finances for painkillers and medication that “give him some level of comfort” have dried up.
“…If the four pillars of sentencing (retribution, deterrence, protection and rehabilitation) are adhered to, this court, I humbly submit, should find a sentence that is non-custodial” appropriate in this case, Connell put forward.
Going through the sentencing guidelines, Connell noted the aggravating features of the offence, including that the firearm and ammunition were illegally obtained and the defendant does not possess a firearm license but “…given his present conditions and his inability to run, he runs a shop and had applied to the higher authorities for a licensed firearm…because he had received several threats.”
He also noted that his client co-operated with the police and voluntarily surrendered the firearm which was apparently still wrapped when the police arrived, therefore Connell asked the court “to show some leniency.
“Even with his disease and the possibility of bones collapsing, and the excruciating pain, he still tries to coach young people – encourage them, even in his position, to grow in the sport, one day represent St Vincent…” the lawyer continued.
Connell also spoke about the psychological effects that losing his involvement in sport would have, and the likelihood of his medical condition deteriorating.
“Efforts have been made to raise the $12,000 US dollars to facilitate his travel to Cuba to address this medical condition…” the counsel said, and “without that treatment, he will break down, literally, physically and mentally,” Connel said as he pleaded with the court not to impose a custodial sentence.
“Behind those walls, Myron Samuel simply would not survive. They do not have the adequate facilities to treat him there…”the defense lawyer continued, acknowledging that his client “erred” and…”the act of acquiring a firearm in this present climate was not wise; it was stupid act”.
Connell said that eight of the 10 factors were present for a suspended sentence to be imposed.
Prosecutor Sergeant Cornelius Tittle noted, that “in relation to firearm matters, we have the sentencing guidelines. Almost automatically these type of offences start with a custodial sentence..”
He also commented that there is a real issue with firearms in the country.
Based on the documents submitted, there is not sufficient medical information to suggest that Samuel would be unable to serve a prison sentence, “or even if he goes to prison that his condition will deteriorate automatically due to the fact that he’s in prison,” Tittle submitted.
The prosecution felt that the firearm could not be said to have been handed over voluntarily, as the police were already executing a search warrant when it was handed over.
They were not able to verify whether or not Samuel made an application for a firearm, and there is no indication whether he made reports to the police about the threats, Tittle noted.
The prosecution further pointed out that purchasing a firearm is not the first or only means Samuel had to protect himself.
Speaking about Samuel’s contribution to sport, the prosecution acknowledged, “it is commendable to see young people going into that direction, but he took a complete u-turn when he decided that he wants a firearm…” Tittle made it clear that he was resisting Connell’s application for a non-custodial sentence.
Prosecutor Sergeant Renrick Cato supported his fellow prosecutor, noting that “…the court must must send a strong message to persons who are in possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition and persons who have the intention of having in their possession unlicensed firearms and ammunition.”
In the middle of these exchanges, Samuel was given a seat in the dock, as it became difficult for him to stand on his swollen and bandaged leg.
He will be sentenced on Monday, August 16, but until then his bail is extended.