Woman posing with gun and its owner each sentenced to 38 months in prison
A woman from Park Hill who posed with a .380 pistol on Facebook, and her male friend who is said to be the owner of the unlicensed weapon, have each been sentenced to 38 months in prison.
After Glendon DeFreitas and defendant Jemelia Bailey received their sentences on the afternoon of May 9, Bailey was seen forcefully and emotionally embracing her seemingly distraught boyfriend who had been waiting for her outside the Serious Offences Court (SOC) Court.
After this embrace her boyfriend then hustled down the corridor and away from the premises, visibly overcome.
Before this Bailey was already displaying apparent signs of emotion at various points during the proceedings, including when prosecutor, Station Sergeant Renrick Cato was delivering his submissions on sentencing.
At that time Chief Magistrate, Rechanne Browne asked her to stop heaving up, noting that her eyes were dry.
“It’s very distracting, I do not like it,” Browne said.
However, after the prosecution recommended a jail sentence for the duo and the magistrate stood down the matter to consider, tears could be seen as Bailey waited to hear her fate.
A Facebook post bearing the caption “380 to do God knows what in Park Hill” stretching across the image of Bailey with a pistol across her chest and her finger on the trigger, is the root of the defendants’ predicament.
On the evening of May 7 the post drew the attention of Sergeant 523 Collin Pitt from the Colonaire police station and led to a party of police officers heading to the defendant’s home in Park Hill. The Sergeant was armed with a warrant and once Bailey consented, the officers proceeded to search the premises. In a basket of clothing in a storeroom a .380 pistol was found.
Bailey told the officers that the gun belongs to DeFreitas, and DeFreitas who was also present when the police turned up, admitted “the gun belongs to me.”
The two were arrested on suspicion of the offence of possession of an unlicensed firearm. Once checks were completed on the weapon and it was determined that neither individual is the holder of a gun permit, they were charged.
Bailey’s caution statement to the police was read in court. She told the officers that on the morning of the same day the police found the firearm, she went to wash a basket of clothes.
She felt something heavy inside the clothing and discovered it was the pistol. Bailey said she called DeFreitas over, as he was at her house at the time, and asked him if the gun was his. He apparently told her that it was, and she took a photo with the gun.
She said she also told DeFreitas “this ah trouble”, referring to the gun. She claimed that DeFreitas also took a photo of her with the firearm.
Bailey told the officers that someone later showed her the photo of her with the gun on Facebook and that she told this person that it must have been DeFreitas who posted it.
In court, Bailey informed the magistrate that she has four children. When asked for more information about her children, the defendant listed their genders as well as their ages as 14, 10, 7 and 5.
She was asked where the children were when the incident occurred and she said they were in a neighbour’s yard playing.
“My children, my children please,” she said emotionally as her co-accused briefly patted her on the back.
DeFreitas said that he works at a bakery in Park Hill and claimed that he has a pregnant girlfriend to support. He asked for a fine, “Please, I’m begging you.”
The prosecutor made an application to show the Facebook post, and the magistrate asked that the defendant confirm whether the photo was the one she was referring to in her caution statement to the police.
When she said that it was the post, it was given to the magistrate to view.
“…She is saying she has no idea how that photograph ends up on social media,” the prosecutor said, and DeFreitas also denies knowledge of it.
He contemplated then that he doesn’t “know what magic was performed,” for the two photographs to have been taken and end up on social media.
The prosecutor also noted that what is striking about the case is Bailey’s reaction when she found the gun, according to her statement.
“Her boyfriend was home and Glendon was in the yard sitting. What did she do? She didn’t call her boyfriend, she didn’t call the police. Who did she call?
She called Glendon, asked about the gun and Glendon say ‘yes is my gun’.”
“What did she do next? She saw it fitting to take photographs and your Honour, that photograph that is still circulating on social media is a gun brandishing on her chest like that,” he said.
“What message is she sending to the public to take a photograph like that?” the prosecutor asked, “And the words attached to that photograph describing the calibre of the weapon and the place where the weapon is. And asking a question in a sly way: ‘God knows what can be done with this in Park Hill’.”
Cato said that Bailey did not tell DeFreitas to remove it or alert her boyfriend to the gun being in the home.
“No. She put it back – And put clothing on it. Her clothing, put them on it.”
The station sergeant asked that the court give consideration to the public interest as “everyone has all sorts of comments to make as it relates to this photograph.”
“…It’s something that the public is looking forward to…the defendant is arrested and the public is looking forward to what would be the outcome of this matter with a young lady with a firearm,” across her chest and a caption with those words.
Addressing Bailey’s reference to her children, the prosecution noted that when choosing to commit a crime persons do not think about the possibility of being taken away from their children for a long time.
Further, “if it wasn’t for the professional thinking of Sergeant Pitt, who saw it fitting to go to the home of the defendant, up to this point in time there would still be a weapon in her home among some clothing – her clothing that is. And that same home is where the same children are living..”
The prosecution reasoned that there must also be an understanding between the two defendants as DeFreitas took the weapon to Bailey’s home and she, upon discovering it, allowed it to remain there.
Based on the prevalence of firearm offences, the public interest, and the serious nature of the crime, Cato said the court had to be mindful of the precedent it sets.
“…Based on the facts and circumstances surrounding this matter, in my judgement, there is no other fitting place for both defendants than Her Majesty’s Prison where they can sit and reflect on their actions,” he concluded, “And where they went wrong.”
The court is empowered by the law for these offences to impose a term of up to seven years in jail or a fine of $20,000 or both.
Using the sentencing guidelines, the magistrate placed the crime as high in terms of the seriousness and consequences.
The starting point was 60% of the maximum or 53 months.
The magistrate weighed the aggravating factors, listing first the prevalence.
“You’re living in St Vincent and the Grenadines, I believe you know of the problem. There is a problem in Park Hill, there is a problem almost everywhere.
Last weekend we had a major problem,” she told the defendants, referring to what has been termed a “bloody” weekend with four homicides.
She said the publication and intent shown by the caption was extremely aggravating.
It was on social media and may still be there Browne said, “No doubt the fear, alarm and panic that such a post could cause” especially in Park Hill.
The concealment of the firearm was also listed as aggravating.
There was nothing mitigating about the offence itself and nothing aggravating concerning Bailey and DeFreitas who were said not to have criminal records.
The court took into account their clean record and the fact that they have dependants.
Ultimately, after the discount for their early guilty plea, the duo were sentenced to 38 months in prison.