Shiva’s Gold and Gems on Front Street. (File photo)
~ Co-defendants to be released today ~
PHILIPSBURG--Three men, two of them youngsters, stood trial Thursday, June 8, for their involvement in the armed robbery of Shiva’s Gold and Gems jewellery store on Front Street on Monday, February 27, 2023.
The “big genius” behind the robbery was sentenced to five years. His two young co-perpetrators will be released later today, Friday.
The brazen daylight robbery took place at 1:30pm in one of the busiest sections of St. Maarten’s main shopping street. In only a few minutes, four armed robbers grabbed expensive designer watches and haphazardly grabbed jewellery, smashing 17 showcases in the showroom. With about 20% of Shiva’s collection, 261 items in total, the robbers took off on two scooters down Front Street and then towards Over the Bank.
Law enforcement officials swiftly came to the scene, where three persons were arrested. The stolen jewellery and watches were found, as well as a firearm.
Suspect Kamal Travis Hamilton (36), described by the prosecutor as the robbery’s “big genius”, was sentenced to five years, whereas the prosecutor demanded six years.
His two young co-perpetrators both received sentences equal to their pre-trial detention.
M.R.P. (20) was sentenced to 102 days of juvenile detention, which was equal to his pre-trial detention, with six months of conditional youth detention, on three years’ probation, with 200 hours of community service and Probation Office supervision.
J.Z.C.F.B. (18) received a similar sentence. He had spent 108 days in pre-trial detention. He was also found guilty of possession of a machete on May 9, 2022, and a case of severe mistreatment on October 28, 2022, during which he knocked two teeth out of a taxi driver’s mouth in front of the Philipsburg police station.
P. and B. will be released from detention today, the judge in the Court of First Instance said after pronouncing their verdicts. The prosecutor had demanded five-year prison sentences for the young criminals. It is not yet known whether the Prosecutor’s Office will file an appeal.
Early afternoon, February 27, 2023, four men on two scooters came down the alley next to Shiva’s from Boardwalk Boulevard. All four of them wore black motorcycle helmets, their faces hidden behind dark visors. One of the men pointed his loaded gun at a female security guard standing in front of Shiva’s entrance.
“They came inside while holding a gun to the woman’s head. She was forced to lie down on the floor,” Shiva’s owner Ajaj Alwani told The Daily Herald at the time. Video images of the robbery were shown in the courtroom Thursday afternoon.
Led before the judge, all three suspects confessed and expressed their regret, stating that they had committed the robbery, which Hamilton said had been his idea, out of financial need.
“How do you get it into your head to commit a robbery with two young boys?” the judge wanted to know.
“I was a bad influence. I told them what to do. I had the gun. I told P. to smash the showcases and B. to grab the jewels,” Hamilton said in response. He also said that he had explained to them what was needed for the robbery, such as scooters and helmets.
According to the prosecutor, there was more to this robbery. “The suspects do not want to name names, but these suspects seem to be the executors, who had to do the nasty work for the creator of the plan.”
Attorney-at-law Geert Hatzmann will be leaving St. Maarten after 16 years to teach law at University of Aruba. He told the court that Hamilton had been close to despair, because he was without a job and an income. “What credits him is that he has played his cards openly and shows regret,” the lawyer said in pleading for a lesser sentence.
Attorney Marlon Hart said that his clients B. and P. confessed to the armed robbery. He said that B. was not aware that it was forbidden to walk with a machete on the public road, He claimed that the blow dealt to the taxi driver was in self-defence.
After a brief recess, the judge declared all crimes proven. The armed robbery was proven based on the suspects’ confessions and the evidence in the case files. Hamilton and B. were also found guilty of illegal firearm possession.
The self-defence pleadings in B.’s mistreatment case were dismissed. B. was indeed attacked, the judge explained, but not before he had taken the taxi driver’s car keys away.
Juvenile justice law
The judge said she had decided to apply juvenile justice law to the two young suspects, considering their dire social circumstances and their “impulsive behaviour” in response to Hamilton’s request to participate in armed robbery during which he was in charge, as could be seen on the camera images. “Both are still very young, and had a difficult start to their life,” the judge said.