PHILIPSBURG--A 46-year-old man was sentenced Wednesday by the Court of First Instance to 48 months, six of which were suspended, on three years’ probation, for raping a woman who was looking after his mother.
David Antonio Benders was acquitted of the charge that he had also deprived the woman of her liberty, for lack of evidence.
The judge attached several conditions to the verdict. The suspect may not reoffend and will have to submit himself to supervision by the Probation Service, which has to include an assessment by Mental Health Foundation (MHF).
Benders was accused of having forced the woman to have sex with him on April 5, one day after the woman was hired to take care of his sick mother.
The defendant denied the charges and told the judge during the hearing that the woman and him had developed feelings for each other and claimed the intercourse was consensual. He admitted that he had sex with the woman, but denied the abuse and rape charges.
The woman told the police a different story. She said she had been mistreated and forced to have rough and unprotected sex in the early morning hours. Benders had dragged her to the bed, where he had tried to choke her. Her arms were bruised and swollen.
She told the police that Benders’ mother, who was in her own bedroom, woke up because of the noise and yelled at her son, telling him to stop, but he did not listen. After they had sex, he locked the door of the victim’s bedroom and also took her phone away.
He told her there was no use to go to the police because there was no evidence. She was released the next morning when Benders’ mother unlocked the door.
During the hearing of this case on August 25, Benders, who has been detained in the Philipsburg police station, told the court that a witness, who is a member of the Volunteer Corps St. Maarten VKS, had visited him to tell him that his girlfriend, the victim in this case, had “made up” the rape allegations.
Upon hearing this, the judge, the prosecutor and lawyer Safira Ibrahim agreed that the hearing should be suspended for additional questioning of the victim and the VKS member to provide more clarity.
When questioned by the judge of instruction the two witnesses denied that Benders was telling the truth, it emerged during Wednesday’s hearing. Benders was arrested April 7. Since then, he spent 174 nights in pre-trial detention.
The prosecutor said Wednesday there were no reasons to doubt the reliability of the victim’s statements and considered rape and mistreatment proven.
“The suspect’s mother did not want a nurse in her house. It was his idea to take a nurse in the home for him to abuse. The Probation Service is concerned about his sexual development. He fits the profile of a sex offender,” the prosecutor said in her closing speech.
“The suspect seriously infringed on his victim’s physical and psychological integrity, and does not take any responsibility for his acts,” the prosecutor said in calling for a six-year prison sentence.
Attorney Safira Ibrahim stated that the evidence plays a major role in sex crimes, especially when the suspect denies the allegations.
She called for the acquittal of her client on the rape and mistreatment charges as the victim’s statements were not consistent and not supported by any other evidence. The lawyer also said there was no evidence of deprivation of liberty, as the victim was free to move “in every scenario”.
The judge found sufficient evidence to consider rape proven. The evidence was based on the victim’s statements, the photos of injuries in the case file and the statement of the victim’s mother, and supporting witness statements by the VKS officer and a friend of the victim.
According to the court there were “indications” of deprivation of liberty, but insufficient evidence to also consider this charge proven.