Published On: Thu, Nov 23rd, 2017

Acquittal for three looting-suspects

PHILIPSBURG – The Court in First Instance acquitted three looting-suspects of all charges on Wednesday morning, though in one case the judge noted that the acquittal went against her heart.

Jonathan Jose U.M. was the first one to get off the hook. The 37-year old Venezuelan benefitted in a way from the fact that the police force was overwhelmed and understaffed after Hurricane Irma hit the island on September 6.

“Dossiers are not always complete and in many cases it was difficult to track the origin of goods,” the public prosecutor said. “The defendant was arrested in a place where stolen foods were found but there is no evidence that he looted them.”

The defendant’s home on Waterfront Road was destroyed during the hurricane and he moved into a nearby shop for shelter. When police got notice that stolen foods were brought into this location they went to have a look.

The defendant maintained that he had nothing to do with the stolen items.

His attorney Geert Hatzmann said that the stolen items – mainly clothing, shoes and flip-flops – are of such a general nature and that it is furthermore unclear from the summons which items are part of the charge that for these reasons the prosecution ought to be declared inadmissible. Given the fact that the prosecution admitted that there is insufficient evidence for a conviction, Hatzmann did not push the issue. The court acquitted the defendant.

In a second case, Richard A. and Clarissa S. faced similar charges. The couple’s case started after citizens tipped the police that there were stolen goods at an address on Back Street. Police found three suitcases stuffed with clothing, electrical and electronic appliances, sunglasses and cleaning material.

Richard A. told the court that he had received some of these items from visiting relatives from the United States, while Clarissa S. claimed that she had found some items on the street. “I don’t consider that looting,” she said.

The public prosecutor expressed his amazement about the defendants’ abilities to invent explanations. “They are trying to hide that we are dealing with stolen goods.”

The prosecutor pointed to Clarissa S.’s statement that she had washed the clothing. But it turned out that all clothing labels were still attached.

The prosecutor said that there is no proof for theft, but he demanded 4 weeks of imprisonment against both defendants.

Attorney Geert Hatzmann said that his clients could at best be accused of embezzling the items but since they were not charged with that particular offense he asked the court for an acquittal. “In that case a conviction for fencing is not possible either,” he said.

The judge spoke of a headache-dossier. “There is no complaint about theft and the evidence lacks conviction. Some of these goods could very well belong to the defendants; it stinks. I just don’t know. There is no legal evidence and I have to acquit you against my heart. And that’s what I will do.”