Three rapists who were found guilty of the 2016 rape of a teenager will together spend just over 43 years behind bars.
Okquetho Jones, 30 years; 25-year-old Mikhail Thomas; and Romrado Wright, 30, on October 21, 2022 were all found guilty of rape of a teenager and were sentenced in High Court #1 on Monday, November 28 to prison terms.
Jones and Wright will each spend just over 15 years in prison, while Thomas will spend just under 14 years behind bars.
The prisoners, who all hail from Georgetown, had spent one month and seven days on remand and this was subtracted from their original sentences of 16 years and 14 years respectively.
Jones and Wright will therefore spend 15 years, 10 months and seven days in prison; while Thomas will spend 13 years 10 months and seven days in prison.
The men were found guilty for having unlawful sexual intercourse with a teenager without her consent on December 24, 2016.
After examination of the evidence, a nine-member jury returned eight-one verdicts at the trial. None of the men was represented by a lawyer.
Allana Cumberbatch from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, appeared for the crown.
Before handing down the sentences, High Court Judge, Brian Cottle told the court that on the date of the assault, the men were in Kingstown selling clothing and other items at Heritage Square.
The virtual complainant, who was 14 at the time, was there with them and she was speaking to a younger male teenager.
The men finished selling as night approached and began walking to a bus stop to get transportation home.
The virtual complainant was still in the company of the three men and the teenager with whom she had been speaking.
When they arrived at the bus stop, the virtual complainant then left with the teenage male and went to a nearby playing field where they engaged in consensual sex.
Jones, Wright and Thomas left the bus stop and went to the playing field and stopped the teenagers when they saw what was happening.
Justice Cottle, continuing to recount the evidence, said the virtual complainant tried to pull up her shorts and underwear. However, the three men demanded that she have sex with them, but she refused.
They then forcefully removed her clothing and told the young man to leave. Afterwards, they had sexual intercourse with the teenage girl and also forced her to perform oral sex on them.
The judge told the court as a result of what happened, it was very difficult for the complainant to pass the scene of her assault and she was suicidal at one point.
Some persons in her community who found out about the incident blamed her and called her a liar for suggesting that the sexual intercourse had been without her consent.
Cottle further said the teenager had been humiliated and degraded by the men on whom she was compelled to perform oral sex; one of whom had vaginal sex with her from behind while she performed oral sex on another.
“I put this case in category two, or high in terms of the consequence… I now turn to look at the seriousness of the matter. This was a group assault, and two of the prisoners were more than 10 years older than the virtual complainant. This was a sustained assault as the three men took turns…this places the matter to level A, or high,” the judge said.
When Jones was interviewed by a social worker he admitted to being at the scene of the assault and admitted to asking the virtual complainant to have sex with him.
He however said that when she refused, he relented and went away.
At his trial, he told the jury that he touched the girl’s breast, but did not have sex with her.
Wright told the interviewer that he did not have sexual intercourse with the virtual complainant, but he was there when Jones took off her clothes and had sex with her.
The court also heard that while Wright said he touched the breast of the girl, he did not have sex with her. On the contrary, in his electronic interview with the police he said he had sex with the complainant twice that day, and he admitted to ejaculating.
Thomas told the court at the trial that he did not have sex with the complainant, and he had never had sexual intercourse before the incident, but he admitted to touching her breast.
Cottle started with 50 per cent of the maximum 30-year sentence for rape, bringing his starting point for the offence to 15 years. He then took into account the aggravating and mitigating factors of the men.
Aggravating for them was that the offence was committed in the presence of others. The virtual complainant was particularly vulnerable because she was 14 and was assaulted by a group. She was also threatened during the sexual encounter.
Mitigating was that there was no physical violence meted out to the complainant apart from the violence inherent in the offence itself.
However, Justice Cottle noted that the offence was very serious even though the circumstances suggested that it was opportunistic and not pre-meditated. He further said “While there are aggravating features, the absence of similar convictions, and the prospect for rehabilitation are powerfully mitigating features, but the message must go out that rape is abhorrent and will not be condoned in St Vincent and the Grenadines.”
As a result, the judge moved up the sentence by one year.
The prisoners had spent one month and seven days on remand and this was subtracted from their sentences.
Both Okquetho Jones and Romrado Wright were sentenced to 15 years 10 months and 23 days in prison, while Mikhail Thomas was sentenced to 13 years 10 months and 23 days in prison.
Thomas’ sentence was less because the judge thought that his mitigating factors outweighed the aggravating factors; the prisoner is still young, is a good candidate for rehabilitation, had no previous convictions and his role in the assault was comparatively lesser than the two other men. He was the youngest and also sexually inexperienced.
The unrepresented convicts were asked if they had anything to say to the court before they were sentenced and they all asked the court for forgiveness and leniency.
Jones and Wright noted that they are fathers and they do not want their children to grow up without them.
They also said that it will be very hard on them and their families, and Wright said, “I am ready to go home, I will never end up in nothing like this again…wish if the court could put me on a bond or something like that, or a curfew, it ain’t easy behind those prison walls, you have to sleep on tough concrete…”.
When Thomas, the youngest of the three men spoke, he had to be handed tissues as he broke down in tears while asking the court for forgiveness.
His mother was present in court and she also broke down in tears when she took the stand, and said whenever she visits her son in prison her blood pressure goes up along with her sugar and she almost collapsed as she is sickly.
Jones’ mother also took the stand on his behalf. She described him as being close to her. She said that he assists her financially and asked the court to have mercy and to show leniency to the prisoner.
While Wright’s mother did not take the stand at the sentencing, she had earlier described him as a helpful child and hopes that the sentencing court will go easy on him.
The men were escorted by the police from the courtroom to begin serving their sentences.
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