Two individuals, Stephen Archer and Immacula Jones, were hauled before the Freeport Magistrate Court in relation to the recent National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) vehicular vandalism incident on Monday, December 30, 2019.
The duo was escorted into the Garnet Levarity Justice Centre to be arraigned for separate charges that morning They appeared before Deputy Chief Magistrate Debbye Ferguson in court #1.
Archer, 54, also known as Warren Johnson, a resident of Pinedale was charged with four counts of stealing from a vehicle.
Information in court revealed that sometime between December 24 and the 27, Archer allegedly committed breaking and entry into three 2019 White Kia 2700s and one gray 2019 Ford Edge, property of the National Emergency Agency and stole black Rocket batteries from each vehicle.
Each battery was valued at $254.03.
He was also charged with causing damage to three of the vehicles, where the passenger window had been broken, each totaling $101.67.
Archer pleaded guilty to all counts.
The prosecution stated that officers from the Central Detective Unit (CDU) received a phone call from a NEMA representative and reported that four government vehicles had been broken into and the batteries were stolen.
Further investigation by the police led to Archer’s arrest, and after being interviewed three of the batteries were recovered and he was charged.
The prosecution asked the court to considered that the vehicles that had been vandalized were emergency vehicles mainly utilized to assist residents in the community. Therefore, if there was a natural disaster at the time of the incident, that meant four necessary vehicles could not be used. Also, that the causing damage charges alone carry a three-month prison sentence.
When asked to speak, Archer told the court that the incident happened in the Star General parking lot where he always saw the vehicles and thought that they were cars that had been damaged in the storm, which was why he vandalized them.
He added that he was sorry for what happened and admitted that he committed this crime, because he relapsed in his drug addiction and is separated from his family.
Archer then requested to be sent to the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre (SRC).
It was revealed that he spent time in the SRC in 2016, however, Archer stated that he did not remember this.
The accused was subsequently sentenced to three months consecutively for each Stealing count.
The virtual complainant, NEMA, was also awarded $305.01 to be paid by Archer on Monday (December 30) afternoon at 2:00 p.m. for the damage.
If Archer paid the fine, he would serve six months imprisonment and if he did not, he would serve a year consecutively at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDCS).
Deputy Chief Magistrate Ferguson noted that she would order that the last four months of his sentence be served at the SRC, so that he could receive treatment for his drug addiction.
Meanwhile, Jones, 64, was charged with three counts of Receiving. It was revealed that between December 24 and 27, she dishonestly received black Rocket batteries knowing that they were appropriated by an offence, namely stealing.
She pleaded not guilty and was granted bail for $1,000.
Her trial is adjourned to April 29, 2020.
After the incident a team from this daily visited the scene as Royal Bahamas Police Force and Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers were combing the area and dusting the vehicles for prints. Evidence of shattered glass, where it is believed the culprit (s) gained entry to the vehicles was everywhere.
Disaster Reconstruction Authority Board Managing Director Kay Forbes-Smith, described the vandalism as, “very sad” and one that will negatively affect the good work NEMA has been doing on the ground since the passing of Hurricane Dorian back in September.
“When some of the staff came in earlier, they came into the parking lot and they met the vehicles vandalized,” Forbes-Smith said during an interview Friday, December 27. “After closer review of the vehicles, when the police arrived, we noticed that all of the batteries were taken from the trucks as well as the Ford Edge (SUV).”
Forbes-Smith is of the view that the incident occurred during the holiday break, when the parking lot was empty of personnel.
She stated that these trucks, that were vandalized, were used to drop off relief supplies from East to West Grand Bahama.
“Now we have no batteries and obviously, we have a big push of relief goods that we wanted to get out into the community at the beginning of the year,” she said. “This will slow the process down quite a bit, and it is just sad because it costs money to replace windows, to replace batteries and it also stops NEMA from continuing to do the work that is has been doing on the ground in Grand Bahama.”
She appealed to persons following the unfortunate event, “To the business community, if persons are trying to sell these Kia batteries and the battery from the Ford Escape, the public ought to know that they were stolen and that they should not engage in purchasing stolen goods.”