Judge rejects basis of plea

| 19/02/2014

(CNS): A Grand Court judge rejected the basis on which a plea was agreed between crown and defence counsel in a robbery case before him Wednesday, pointing out that there cannot be two sets of different facts in the same case. Ordain Lloyd Ebanks, who had been charged with armed robbery at Chisholms supermarket last September had the charges against him reduced to handling stolen goods after the crown said it no longer had evidence that Ebanks was part of the robbery. Although he had entered the shop a short time before and purchased a patty and was later arrested in the getaway car, he denied knowing anything about the crime until he was handed a stolen cigarette packet.

The crown had originally claimed that 18-year-old Ebanks, along with another man, had gone into Chisholms to check things out or, as it was later described, to “case the joint” before the crime was committed, then they had been part of the getaway and therefore had been involved in planning the heist.

It was on that basis that Justice Charles Quin accepted Courtney Bryan's plea last month, the first of the four men arrested and charged in the case, to be sentenced. During the sentencing hearing the court heard admissions that Bryan was one of the two robbers that had held up the store's 83-year-old owner and her granddaughter in broad daylight on 23 September last year.

Based on the submissions made by the crown outlining the facts of the case, the judge had found that the two men who entered the store before the robbery were part of the crime and their “casing of the joint” was an aggravating factor as it had indicated a degree of planning and that the robbers had established that the shop was occupied by just two women.

As a result, Justice Quin had raised his concerns about the crown’s decision to accept a plea from Ebanks that he had no knowledge of the crime until he found himself in a getaway car with the alleged robbers and was then handling stolen cigarettes.

At last week’s sentencing hearing when the submissions were made regarding the now reduced part the crown said Ebanks played, the judge made it clear he was uncomfortable with the deal the crown had made over the plea. When he returned to the case Wednesday 19 February, he said he was rejecting the basis of the plea as there could not be two sets of facts. Justice Quin said evidence needed to be aired to get at the truth of what happened and who played what part in the robbery before pleas could be accepted and an appropriate sentence passed.

With his judgment against Bryan contradicting what the crown now claims are the circumstances of this case, the judge adjourned it for one month to allow lawyers time to prepare arguments, andremanded Ebanks in custody.

Based on legal authorities, the judge explained that he was not obligated to accept a basis of plea merely because the crown and defence had agreed. Justice Quin said any agreement between counsel was subject to the court’s agreement. As a result the lawyers involved will now put forward theirlegal arguments on the position taken by the judge on 24 March.

It is not clear why the crown had altered their position in the case. Odain Ebanks, Ian Ellington Courtney Bryan and a teenager who cannot be named because of his age were all arrested and charged with the North Side robbery after a high speed chase through the eastern district by an RCIPS patrol vehicle with support from police helicopter.

Bryan and the teen admitted that they were the two men who had entered the store and committed the robbery. Bryan was the first to be sentenced and he received four years as he was considered to be the ring leader. The 16-year-old has also admitted going into the store and committing the robbery with Bryan but has persistently denied having a weapon. As a result he has pleaded guilty to robbery and not guilty to possession of an imitation firearm and is now expected to face trial later this year on that count.

Meanwhile, Ellington, who has pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact, having admitted that he picked up the robbers, has denied being the man in the shop with Ebanks when he purchased a patty or knowing anything about the hold-up until after the event. His sentencing hearing was also adjourned and he was also remanded in custody until next month.

Category: Crime

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