Lawyer’s ask for leniency for teen pizza robbers

| 04/10/2010

(CNS): The defence attorneys representing the four teenagers who pleaded guilty to robbing the Savannah branch of Domino’s Pizza in June this year asked the court to show mercy to their clients, who, they said, were all young and had made a foolish, if serious, mistake. At the sentencing hearing on Friday the crown said the maximum sentence for the most serious of robberies is life in prison. However, counsel guided the court towards a minimum custodial sentence of two years in this case. Lawyers for Addie Haylock, Julissa Avila, Anastasia Watson and Ariel McLaughlin said all four defendants were only 17 at the time, had admitted their guilt and cooperated with the police. They had all shown sincere remorse, apologising to the victims, their families and the community and had no previous convictions.

The crown reminded the court of the fear the two members of staff had on the day the three girls burst into the store disguised, carrying machetes and demanding cash as they declared they were committing a robbery. Using the machete to open the cash draw and discovering only coins, the teens had asked, “Where’s the cash?” They were pointed to a bank bag, which they grabbed, and ran from the store, fleeing in a white Rav 4 driven by Ariel McLaughlin.
The court heard how three of the youngsters, who were staying together in the same house, decided to commit the robbery that morning and emailed the fourth member inviting her to join in. Armed with machetes and their faces covered with caps and handkerchiefs, Haylock, Avila and Watson stole CI$366, a litre bottle of Coke and one of Sprite, while McLaughlin admitted joint enterprise as a result of driving the girls to the scene of the crime.
Although no one was hurt, the crown pointed to the aggravating circumstances of the robbery with the use of the machetes, as counsel directed the court to a custodial sentence. The prosecution said that a suspended or partially suspended sentence would be a departure from the chief justice’s guidelines.
In mitigation the lawyers noted the circumstances in which the youngsters had come together and become friends. Some of them shared a common connection to the six people lost at sea earlier this year. One of the young defendants had lost her brother, cousin and uncle in the incident and had been hard hit by the tragedy, social enquiry reports revealed.
The court also heard how one of the victims had suffered a "traumatic andchallenging" childhood of abuse until she was 12 years old, when she was eventually placed under a protection order and taken into care. But shortly before the crime, as a result of being seventeen, the girl was abandoned by the care system and left to fend for herself.
Despite her circumstances, she had done well in school and now, like the other offenders, was a student at UCCI, where they all had been showing promise for the future. A long custodial sentence for any of them, the lawyers warned, could undermine their rehabilitation, which the defence attorney reminded the court was an important consideration of any punishment handed to young offenders.
The lawyers indicated that all four had shown considerable regret since the incident and were very well aware of the fact that what they thought was a “foolish prank” had turned out to have extremely serious consequences. For one of the young women the consequence could be even more serious than the term of imprisonment they all were likely to face. Having been awarded Caymanian status some three years via her mother, she could have her status revoked and face deportation and the subsequent separation from her home and family if she was to be given a sentence greater than 12 months.
All four defendants had submitted letters of apology, and according to social enquiry reports, were showing both remorse and sincere appreciation of the real fear suffered by the two staff members at the pizza parlour.  The defence team adopted a similar position and asked the court to consider suspending the sentences of the young offenders where possible in accordance with their age.
The judge presiding over the sentencing adjourned the hearing and remanded the teens in custody until 15 October, when he will pronounce sentence.  
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  1. Anonymous says:

    Throw the book at them. Stop these punks from terrorizing our community. They should not see the light of day.