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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.

Bahamas News

Bahamas Development Bank Launches 50th Anniversary Celebrations  

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Nassau Bahamas, 3 March 2024- The Bahamas Development Bank (BDB) recently commenced its golden anniversary celebrations with special church services held at Freeport Bible Church and Golden Gates Native Baptist Church, in Grand Bahama and New Providence respectively. Both services marked the beginning of a year filled with commemorations of the bank’s 50 years of financial service and national development.

Bahamas Development Bank Managing Director, Nicholas Higgs, said, “As we launch our 50th anniversary celebrations, we are reminded of our journey fueled by an unwavering commitment to our country. As we look forward to the next 50 years and beyond, we remain dedicated to fostering economic growth, supporting local entrepreneurs, and building a prosperous future for The Bahamas.”

The New Providence service was led by Pastor Alonso Hinsey Jr., who serves not only as the senior pastor of Golden Gates Native Baptist Church but also as an executive at BDB. In his sermon, Pastor Hinsey emphasized the importance of trusting God and being trustworthy as two sides of the same coin.

“Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship and our relationship with God is no exception. When we trust God, we believe who He says that He is, what He is going to do, and that He will do what He says He will do. We rely on Him to guide us, protect us, and to provide for us. Being trustworthy is just as important. When we are trustworthy, others can rely on us to keep our promises, can rely on us to tell the truth, and act with integrity.”

He referenced the story of God ordering Abraham to sacrifice his promised son Isaac.

“Trust is not easy when facing challenges. However, even in the midst of our doubts and fears, God is faithful and trustworthy.  When we are trustworthy, others know they can rely on us and that they will not be let down. When we are trustworthy, we are reflecting the character of God who faithful and true,” Pastor Hinsey added.

Hinsey also stressed that, “Trustworthiness is essential for building strong relationships and creating a just and harmonious society.”

The Bahamas Development Bank has been instrumental in providing financial solutions and expertise to Bahamian businesses and entrepreneurs, driving economic growth and sustainability across the country. The 50th anniversary marks a significant milestone in the bank’s history and will be marked by a variety of events, including community outreach initiatives, competitions, and celebrations that both reflect on the bank’s past accomplishments and outline its way forward.

Pastor Hinsey’s powerful message can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/live/c0FxUErI65o?si=em2vTZ7AfPIZklNk.

 

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Caribbean News

CARICOM says they want ‘Ceasefire’ in Gaza

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Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer 

 

March 3, 2024 – The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and is calling out Israel for ignoring UN calls to put an end to the invasion, following the conclusion of the 46th Heads of Government Intersessional Meeting.

The February 29 statement was published online and maintained that CARICOM was “deeply distressed by the ongoing violence and deteriorating situation in Gaza, which has resulted in the tragic loss of civilian lives, including the deaths of women and children on an unprecedented scale, and widespread displacement and suffering.”

Despite its calls for a cease fire, the regional bloc reiterated its strong condemnation of the attacks by Hamas ‘as well as of the Israeli actions that violate international humanitarian law and the human rights of the Palestinian people.’

CARICOM is describing Israel’s attacks on Gaza as ‘incessant’ and ‘catastrophic’ in impact on that region.

“CARICOM urges an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Gaza and safe and unimpeded access for the delivery of adequate and sustained humanitarian assistance. We also strongly advocate for the rule of law to prevail and for the return to their families of all hostages and persons held in administrative detention without charge.

Israel’s continued and expanding occupation of territory in the occupied West Bank poses a serious and continuing threat to a peaceful, secure and stable world.”

CARICOM is also reaffirming its commitment to a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians, and has summoned stronger interference and enforcement by the United Nations (UN).

“The Community, therefore, calls on the United Nations General Assembly to invoke its powers in the UN General Assembly Resolution 377A “Uniting for Peace” to hold an emergency session and to issue appropriate recommendations to UN Member States to collectively impose measures designed to motivate Israel to adhere to its obligations under the said UN Resolution and under the ICJ Order.”

Israeli Jews and Palestine are steeped in a bloody conflict which began following an October 7, 2024 attack on Jewish people by Hamas militants which reportedly resulted in hundreds being killed, it was reported that 260 bodies were recovered and 130 Israelis were taken hostage.  The response by Israel has been incessant and merciless, the latest criticism coming on February 29, when Israel was accused of opening fire on Palestinians crowding a UN orchestrated, relief convoy where 112 people were killed.

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Bahamas News

Abaco Hurricane Shelter ‘progressing’ despite inherited delays

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Bahamas Information Services

March 3, 2024



Central Pines, ABACO, The Bahamas – The new, State-of-the-Art Hurricane Shelter and Community Centre currently under construction in Central Pines, Abaco, is scheduled to be fully completed by November 2024, despite some inherited delays.

Contractors add that the dual Shelter/Community Centre, which is anticipated to be a prototype for the future design and construction of shelters in The Bahamas, will have an “occupied date” of early summer, meaning that the facility should be available to host those persons requiring assistance at that time, if the need arises.  This is good news as the 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1 and runs through November 30.  Abaconians will continue to have access to a host of other approved shelters throughout the island, and not just rely on the prototype alone, however.

Disaster Risk Management officials further say the dual Hurricane Shelter and Community Centre will be “one of a kind” in the region in terms of its construction and design. The building is being constructed under “a new building code,” that calls for its structure – doors, window, roof — to withstand hurricane force winds of up to 250 miles per hour (Category 5 Hurricane and higher).

Its mechanical systems are designed to accommodate diverse loads, including an industrial kitchen, communication systems, air-conditioning system, male and female bathrooms and showers, office spaces for emergency personnel, in addition to storage areas.

Standby generators to ensure continuity with communications, water, sewerage, air-conditioning, refrigeration, safety and security, will be installed in order to mitigate the impacts of disruptions in power.

A ramp that was not included in the original design, was added to allow persons with disabilities and the elderly — considered two of the more vulnerable populations particularly during natural disasters such as tropical storms and/or hurricanes — easy frontal access to the facility under the protection of a canopy.

“Construction is going very well, particularly now that we are back on schedule,” said Mr. Chris Symonette, Project Manager. “We had lost almost a year due to some faults that we found in the ground, and in the foundation, we met in place when we assumed responsibility for the project. These corrective measures took us about 9 months to resolve.

“The building is one of a kind in the region. As a matter of fact, this will be the first 250 miles-per-hour hurricane shelter design in The Bahamas. We had to exceed the ratings while ensuring that we have redundancy upon redundancy,” Mr. Symonette added.

Raeh Williams, a Director, with Wilkem Solutions, a Bahamian-owned entity that specializes in development, civil works and waste management, among other services, said the construction team has been “pushing every day” to ensure that they meet the projected dates. The company took over construction operations a little over one year ago.

“We met a lot of challenges that were a real test of our skill and tenacity because there were caves, holes and a lot of other issues that basically caused us to have to perform a lot of corrective work to get us where we are today. The scheduled completion date is November 2024, but we are anticipating having an occupied completion by June/July which is right at the beginning of the Hurricane Season so that if there is some need to use the shelter, it will be available. That is our push and we are pushing every day to make sure that we stick to that.”

 

PHOTO CAPTIONS

Header: Minister Lundy and delegation reviewing building plans for the multi-purpose Abaco Hurricane Shelter and Community Centre. (BIS Photo)

1st insert: Abaco Hurricane Shelter and Community Centre Project Manager Chris Symonette (right) updates Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Disaster Risk Management, the Hon. Leon Lundy (second right) during State-Minister Lundy’s Official Visit.  (BIS Photo)

2nd insert: Minister Lundy (second right) and team conduct a walk-through of the multi-purpose Abaco Hurricane Shelter and Community Centre under construction in Central Pines.  Also pictured (from left) are: Mr. Kirk Cornish, Member of Parliament, North Abaco, and Mr. John H. Pinder, Member of Parliament for South and Central Abaco and Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation.  Project Manager, Mr. Chris Symonette is at far right. (BIS Photo)

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