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Wrong Information! Tourist shares ‘Exceptional Circumstances’ to escape 12 Years for Gun and Ammo

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Wilkie Arthur

Freelance Court Reporter

 

Unusual Proceeding

#TurksandCaicos, August 14, 2023 – Alex Nash, the 36-year-old American man who last Friday appeared before The Hon. Justice Chris Selochan with intention to plead guilty to an alleged firearm and ammunition found in his possession while leaving the country on July 17th 2023, at the Providenciale/Howard Hamilton International Airport, Turks and Caicos Islands.  However, before being arraigned and pleading guilty, the learned the judge in a practice that is not customarily seen in the Turks and Caicos, begun by asking the accused a few questions directly and not through his lawyer.

He asked him about being advised concerning the matter he intends to plead to. He asked him about his awareness regarding the consequences of the matter he intends to plead. Do you understand the possible punishment you can receive as it relates to these offenses? The accused answered yes to all questions, he was advised by his attorney Ms. Sheena Mair. “He knows the consequence and he accepts responsibility and he’s doing this on his own free will.”

Pleading Guilty

The judge then went on to have the charges read to him. Nash pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm and illegal possession of 20 rounds of ammunition for a gray and black TP 9mm firearm and 20 rounds of ammunition for that firearm.

Exceptional Circumstance

Having pleaded guilty, the judge invited Sheena Mair, Nash’s Human Rights attorney to go straight into her submission. She did and had filed a written submission pertaining to exceptional circumstances.

Ms. Mair proceeded to explain to the judge what amount to “exceptional circumstances” in this case to enable him to depart from the mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years imprisonment for the visiting tourist.

One of the judge’s main expressed concerns were, that, it was legal for her client to have a firearm in his house in the state of Kentucky but if he was moving the firearm, he was supposed to have some sort of permit or permission to you to carry it.

It was mentioned that Alec Nash did not have this permit or permission, but the defendant explained to the judge through his counsel, that he would only need that permit or permission if he was carrying it on him, in his pocket, pants or on a holster but not to carry it from one spot to the next.

It was explained it had to be in a locked box with the magazine outside the gun. This is how it was transported from his house through the airport to the Turks and Caicos Islands. The firearm was properly secured in a locked box.

Ms. Mair explained to the judge that her client was told, when he contacted the airlines that he could travel to the TCI with his gun. They further told him when he reached the Turks and Caicos Islands there will become a special area for him to pick up this gun. He checked when he arrived in TCI. He inquired of the agents here in TCI on where he can pick up his firearm that’s in his luggage. The agents told him all luggage were on the belt, so he then proceeded to the belt and found his luggage there, picked it up and proceeded to the hotel at Rock House where he lived along with his girlfriend.

Ms. Mair told the court that he has no previous conviction in the United States. He did not try to conceal the firearm when travelling to the Turks and Caicos nor on his departure, he made inquiries and was given wrong information.

Ms. Mair submitted a number of case s in support of why the judge should find that there are ‘exceptional circumstances’ to depart from the mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years imprisonment including three local case authorities, two of them being very recent as of this year.

Precedent Set

One from November of 2019 where the then Hon. Chief Justice Mrs. Margaret Ramsey-Hale sentenced a 73 years old retired, disabled, decorated American war veteran, who served as a Navy Seal to $20,000 or one year imprisonment.

The defendant, Aloysius Ebner who was injured in combat, ran his boat aground near an uninhibited Cay namely Big Sand Cay close Salt Cay. He had a number of guns and ammunition in his boat until he admitted to disposing about some seven rifles in deep water when he realized his boat was having problems.  A cache of seven pistols, a shotgun and 8,000 rounds of ammunition were confiscated.

The man was heading back home to the US from the Dominican Republic; he did no jail time in the Turks and Caicos for the major offence which at the time carried a mandatory 7-year prison term.

In a second case, from March 2023, David Carrol O’Connor was found with 44 rounds of ammunition at the Providenciales International Airport, and he entered a guilty plea around two months later.  Justice Tayna Lobban Jackson sentenced him on May 16 to a fine of $6,670.00 or 90 days imprisonment.

Again, no jail time for the visitor to the British overseas territory, despite strict gun laws and high gun crime.

In the case of Alex Guzman, he was found with a firearm and ammunition once again at the airport in Providenciales.  Guzman also pleaded guilty before same judge Jackson on June 2, 2023, and was sentenced on three days later to a fine of $3,500.00 or 60 days imprisonment.

About the Defendant

Counsel for Alec Nash submitted that he had been a legal gun owner in his native USA for 2 to 3 years that he has never had to use it.  It was also expressed that Nash lost his sister to gun violence, and his brother was a survivor of a gun attack. These incidents were cited as the reasons Nash felt the need to get a gun.

It was also presented by the attorney, that Nash lived at the Rock House with the firearm from July 13-17, 2023.  The firearm was kept in a safe whilst living there.

The court also learned Alec Nash is a father of three and legally separated from his wife and that he is responsible for half their maintenance.

Why Alec Nash must Go to Jail

The learned judge Mr. Chris Selochan in hearing the submissions by Principal Public Prosecutor Clement Joseph as he explained in the court this past Friday August 11, 2023, that there are no exceptional circumstances and that all persons charge with firearms and ammo must do jail time.

He said, a gun license in the United States is not exceptional circumstances because it is illegal to possess an unregistered firearm in the TCI.

Joseph said there’s nothing exceptional about these gun cases involving tourists any longer, it’s becoming a norm and everyone saying the same thing. There’s nothing exceptional about these cases any more they must go to prison.

The public prosecutor reminded the judge of the disparity of treatment between a local found with an illegal gun and a tourist found with the same.

Joseph said when locals are found with a firearm, they hardly ever get bail and we imprisoned them for whatever the mandatory minimum is, be it five years, seven years and now 12 years imprisonment.

The same must apply to all individuals found offending no matter the circumstances or where they come from. They must go to jail too.

In the end, the learned Justice found that Sheena Mair made a good and convincing case of exceptional circumstances and he accepted that there were exceptional circumstances to enable him to depart from the mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years.

The judge pointed out that with two very recent cases where a lesser sentence was conveyed upon the defendant, it would be unfair and unjust to treat this defendant any differently.

He therefore sentenced ALEC NASH to a fine of $5,000.00 or 60 days imprisonment. The fine was paid, and Nash has since left the country.

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Demolition coming as South Base to Undergo Testing for Asbestos

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Turks and Caicos, July 18th, 2024 – The Turks and Caicos Islands Government would like to advise the public of Grand Turk, that a consulting firm has been contracted to carry out testing of the buildings on the South Base Compound for the presence of asbestos.  A week of testing began Wednesday, July 10. This is to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations and to protect workers, residents, and the public from possible asbestos exposure risks once comprehensive works on the base commence.

This is the initial consultation necessary to determine the methodology for the demolition and disposal of derelict buildings in the assessed area.  It is believed that low-risk micro-fibres are present in some of the buildings, owing to the period of construction and the types of materials used during that era.  Testing will confirm whether asbestos is present and if so, at what levels.

As a precautionary measure, signs have been erected to advise the public to avoid entering any of the dilapidated structures; as building materials containing asbestos, if disturbed, can release tiny asbestos fibres into the air.  Currently only the consultants are authorised to traverse the buildings until further notice.

Residents of Grand Turk have for years demanded that Governments address the unsightly area. The requests were mainly in relation to the aesthetics of the buildings. However, the interventions were deferred at various times for varying reasons.

The South Base is a huge compound, by island standards, with an area containing over twenty-one (21) building sites. It was formerly used as a United States Government base, and then as administrative offices by the Turks and Caicos Islands Government. Some of the structures were renovated and are in acceptable condition, whilst others were destroyed over the years by hurricanes and normal wear and tear. 

The South Base, which has mostly been left as a decrepit and ghostly development of obsolete structures is finally being remedied. The area, which is a main thoroughfare for tourism and commerce when cleaned up, will provide space for numerous governmental and civilian uses.

Residents of Grand Turk sharing the optimism of a prospective demolition should adhere to this notification and any precautionary warnings erected for their health, safety, and well-being.

Subsequent phases of the works will be published via a public tendering.

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Caribbean News

RBC donates $175,000 to Hurricane Beryl relief efforts

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PORT OF SPAIN — In the wake of Hurricane Beryl, RBC Royal Bank (RY on TSX and NYSE) (“RBC”) and RBC Foundation USA announced a donation of C$175,000 to the Canadian Red Cross and the American Red Cross in support of Caribbean and U.S. relief efforts.

The devastating hurricane impacted several Caribbean and U.S. communities where RBC operates, including Barbados, the Cayman Islands, and Tobago.

RBC’s contribution will support emergency relief efforts, including shelters, hygiene kits, and social assistance to those in the affected communities.

“The intensity of Hurricane Beryl this early in the season is concerning and our thoughts are with the individuals affected in the Caribbean communities as well as in the U.S.,” said Chris Duggan, Head of RBC Caribbean Banking.

“At RBC, we believe it is our responsibility to support our communities in times of need. Our donation to the Red Cross, will provide immediate assistance to those impacted, ensuring they receive the necessary resources to recover and rebuild.”

Commenting on the Caribbean generosity as well as that of our larger RBC community, Duggan added: “The response of the RBC Caribbean Banking employees, as well as that of our larger RBC community has been generous and unhesitating. In response to the disaster, our colleagues are coming together in many unique and incredible ways and donating personally to help those affected.”

Those that would like to support the relief efforts can donate to the Canadian Red Cross at www.redcross.ca or the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org.

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FortisTCI makes a case for Rate Increase in Media Meeting

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Ruth Gardiner Forbes, President and Chief Executive Officer of FortisTCI

Garfield Ekon

Staff Writer

 

Turks and Caicos, July 17, 2024 – President and Chief Executive Officer of FortisTCI, Ruth Gardiner Forbes says it is very necessary for the company to be granted the 6% increase that it has requested, because it has absorbed many costs in previous years.

Devon Cox FortisTCI

The company is the main electricity provided in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), and the CEO shared that the rate adjustment will aid FortisTCI in meeting the demands of an expanding economy, and growing costs to operate.

If granted, the proposed 6% increase in electricity rate, would mean that an additional $2 to $15 per month for the majority of residential customers, explained Forbes.

While addressing a recent media event, the CEO stressed that “this rate increase is necessary, and we have had to make a lot of investments to keep up with the growth,” she said.

Adding that several factors contribute to the need for increased rates, including cybersecurity risks, wildfire risks, supply chain challenges, and evolving regulatory requirements, she said “this is one of the most difficult things that we have to do, is go to our customers and ask for an increase every year.”

She said the existing circumstances have forced the company to seek the proposed adjustment, and that the rate increase is necessary, as “we have to make the application because amidst all this growth, we have had to make a lot of investments to keep up with the growth,” she told the forum.

The CEO reasoned that given the importance of retaining reliable service, it is not plausible for the TCI to have a headline that says “we are experiencing blackouts,” and the company does not receive a guaranteed 17.5% return, although the rate is allowable by contract, the average return on rate base for the past five years was 3.9%, with the highest being 5.1%.

FortisTCI Execs

The company’s Director of Energy Production, Alvejes Desir, gave details of the impact of the depth of the water at the port on fuel supply costs, adding that limited depth restricts the size of ships that can deliver fuel, leading to increased transportation costs.

He said FortisTCI has made significant investments in renewable energy sources, aligning with the Resilient National Energy Transition Strategy (R-NETS) approved by the Turks and Caicos Islands Government.

The company recently installed a new dual-fuel generating unit capable of using natural gas, a lower-carbon energy source, and is awaiting the Governor’s appointment of an independent inquirer to review the reasonableness of its proposal for a rate hike.

It has also requested the appointment of an independent inquirer to review the reasonableness of its application, a process that was also followed in a previous rate dispute in 2017.

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