A taxi operator found himself on the wrong side of the law after his first offence landed him and a passenger behind bars, when they were charged for possession of firearm, ammunition and cocaine.
Taxi Driver, Kevin Lewis, a 38 year old resident of Campden Park; and Jomodean Alexander, a 25 year old resident of Brighton pleaded guilty to these charges when they appeared in the Serious Offences Court on January 6, before Chief Magistrate, Rechanne Browne.
Lewis was charged that on January 4, at Brighton he had in his possession one Taurus .9mm pistol, serial number ABC349557 without a license issued under the Firearms Act.
In addition, he was charged for having eight rounds of .9mm ammunition without a license issued under the Firearms Act.
Lewis was also charged for having in his possession a controlled drug, to wit 17 grammes of cocaine with the intent to supply to another.
On January 5, a search was conducted at his home at Campden Park and this led to him being further charged for having in his possession, 775 grammes of cannabis with the intent to supply to another.
In addition, Lewis had in his possession a controlled drug, to wit eight grammes of cocaine with the intent to supply to another.
The other defendant, Alexander, was charged that on January 4, at Brighton, he had in his possession one glock 19 pistol, serial number unknown, without a license issued under the Firearms Act. He also had in his possession 26 rounds of .9mm ammunition unknown, without a license issued under the Firearms Act.
Alexander was further charged with having in his possession a controlled drug, to wit, 18 grammes of cocaine with the intent to supply to another.
The chief magistrate sentenced the defendants to three years imprisonment on the gun and ammunition charges, and they were each fined for possession of the controlled substances. The fines were to be paid forthwith.
According to the facts presented by prosecutor, corporal Shamrack Pierre, about 10:30 p.m on the date in question, sergeant 403 Nigel John was on patrol duties at Brighton gap with other members of the Rapid Response Unit.
The team also comprised police constables 1033 Nigel Hadaway, and 22 Curtis Lee. PC 782 Kentish Gould later joined the investigation.
While they were conducting a stop and search, a black Noah vehicle, license plate H5393, arrived from the Calliaqua area and they signalled the driver of that vehicle to stop.
The officers identified themselves and requested a search. Due to rainy conditions, the search took place at the Calliaqua Police Station.
There, PC Hadaway conducted a search on the van and found a small cushion in the door containing 14 dime bags with a white powdered substance reasonably believed to be that of cocaine. It was shown to the occupants and the driver said that it belonged to him.
During a search on Lewis, one silver and purple firearm, Taurus .9mm pistol, serial number ABC349557 with a magazine containing eight rounds of ammunition, and one in the breach were found in his crotch.
When he was cautioned, Lewis said “ officer yuh find it pon me, so is mine.”
Investigations continued, and Sergeant 403 John headed a party to Lewis’ home in Campden Park where a search was conducted.
PC 22 Lee found a transparent bowl with a white substance resembling that of cocaine. When Lewis was cautioned he said “ah mine.”
PC 782 Gould, who was also a member of the team, found five packages of plant resembling that of marijuana in a multi coloured Massy bag in the kitchen. The defendant also informed the officer that the marijuana belong to him.
The younger defendant, Alexander, was escorted to his home on January 4, after the taxi was stopped at Brighton. He was questioned as to whether he had anything to declare in the house.
He told the officers that he has one ounce of cocaine and a firearm. He was told to hand them over and he pointed out a blue knapsack and a brown bag.
The knapsack was opened in the presence of the defendant and appeared to contain cocaine; while the other bag contained a black firearm, and an extended magazine was found fitted into the firearm with the capacity to hold 25 rounds.
The other magazine appeared to be full with 17 rounds of ammunition, and when cautioned, the defendant said “officer yuh see how things ah go is for my protection.”
During plea mitigation, lawyer for the defendants, Grant Connell told the court that the taxi driver is a 38 year old father with a five year old son, and a 9 month old daughter. He had no previous convictions, showed extreme remorse, had assisted the police and did not resist at anytime.
The chief magistrate inquired whether the baby was living in the home where the cocaine was found, and counsel responded, yes.
The chief magistrate expressed dissatisfaction after Connell highlighted that the drug was for the defendant’s personal use.
As for Alexander, Connell told the court that he is 25 years old. He asked for a fine to be imposed on the defendant and said, “filling the cells with everyone who is found with a firearm will not fix our problem…filling the jails with young men is not going to stop homicides or the firearms coming in from wherever they are coming in.”
Alexander, who had been previous convicted told the court he had been in prison for 111 days.
In response to this, the lawyer said, “he has been in a cell before and spent 111 days and you send him for another 200 days then what?…is he really a threat to society?”
The defendant also told the court that Alexander is a graduate of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College, having completed studies in Automotive repairs.
Connell also asked for him to be attached to a repair facility for employment.
“We have choices, and in the end, it is the choices that we make that affect us. I sit here often and I’m saddened because for the year, I’ve seen no female making any such choices…they are not coming here, but the young, strong men are often here based on their choices” the chief magistrate said.
Prosecutor Pierre, told the court during his submissions that the year 2022 was one of the bloodiest years in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. There were 42 homicides. He said the majority of those murders were because of the use of firearms.
“ We do not manufacture firearms in SVG…so where are these firearms coming from?” the prosecutor asked.
He also said that firearm and cocaine, when combined equals crime, and he described them as very aggravating factors.
Pierre and Browne both questioned where the remaining 17 rounds of ammunition that were extended to the glock 19 pistol were, since the weapon had a capacity to hold 25 rounds.
With respect to Lewis, Pierre said mitigating, he entered a guilty plea and has no previous convictions. However, regarding aggravating factors, he found that the defendant is a taxi driver, and also the time of the night when he was found with the firearm.
He also found aggravating, that the defendant had the firearm concealed in his crotch, and one was in the breach. In addition, he thought that having a nine month old baby, and having a powered substance which could be mistaken for milk, anything could have gone wrong since the substance was found in a cupboard.
In handing down the sentence for Lewis, the chief magistrate began with non custodial sentences for the illegal possession of cocaine and marijuana. Lewis was fined $1400.00 for possession of 17 grammes of cocaine to be paid forthwith or spend three months in prison.
Also, he was fined $1,133.00 for possession of 775 grammes of marijuana to be paid forthwith or spend three weeks in prison; and he was fined $900.00 for having eight grammes of cocaine to be paid forthwith or spend one month in prison.
A destruction order was also made for the controlled drugs.
For the possession of firearm, the chief magistrate began the custodial sentence with 3.5 years after she found the seriousness of the offence to be in the highest category, and the consequence in the lowest category.
Browne found aggravating of the offence, the prevalence of firearms in SVG and said “its too rampant.”
She also found the time of the offence, the fact that the defendant is a service provider and had a loaded firearm that was well concealed with one round of ammunition in the breach to all be aggravating. She also highlighted that the weather conditions hampered the progress of the search, and the defendants had to be escorted to the Calliaqua Police Station where the firearm was discovered.
There were no mitigating factors of the offence, and as a result, 11 months were added. There were also no aggravating nor mitigating factors of the offender.
The chief magistrate said the defendant showed genuine remorse and he had no previous convictions. As a result, four months were deducted from his sentence.
The defendants guilty plea went to his discount and 1.3 years were deducted from his sentence, bringing it to 2.9 years.
However, the magistrate decided to step away from the guidelines and increased the sentence by three months.
Lewis was sentenced to three years for the firearm, and 11 months for the ammunition. Both sentences will run concurrently and a confiscation order was given.
Alexander was fined $1400.00 for cocaine to be paid forthwith or spend three months in prison.
The chief magistrate started the custodial sentence for the firearm at 3.8 years after she found the seriousness of the offence to be in the highest category.
She found the aggravating factors of the offence to outweigh the mitigating factors and 10 months were added, after she highlighted the prevalence of firearms and ammunition linked with drug offences, and that the firearm was concealed and had an extended magazine. The court also found that the possession of the firearm was motivated by revenge, based on the evidence.
Mitigating of the offence, the defendant was found to have assisted and cooperated with the police.
However, although the defendant has previous convictions, this was not enough to outweigh the mitigating factors of the offender and two months were deducted from the sentence.
The defendant’s guilty plea went to his discount and 1.4 years were deducted.
He was sentenced to three years for the firearm, and two years for the ammunition. Both sentences will run concurrently, and a destruction order was given.
Browne advised the defendants to use this time to reflect on their choices. She told Lewis it is unfortunate that this is his first time appearing in court on an offence, and one that is serious; while she told Alexander that “contrary to many of the defendants who come before this court, you have had an opportunity to have a taste of tertiary education.”
She further advised him to “think carefully so that on your release something different can happen. You owe loyalty to yourself” she said.