A Belize City fisherman with fifteen years’ experience on the sea begged Senior Magistrate Sharon Frazer not to send him to prison after he pleaded guilty to being in “possession of out of season lobster tails” and “four hawksbill turtles,” which are endangered, protected species, when she arraigned him this morning on the two charges that the Fisheries Department levied on him.
The fisherman, Lionel Sedacy, a resident of 47 Amara Avenue, was remanded to prison along with two other men on two counts of aggravated assault with a firearm, for allegedly firing on a Coast Guard patrol boat that had gone to investigate a robbery report in the area of Middle Long Caye last Thursday.
When asked to enter his plea, Sedacy said he was “guilty with an explanation.”
He told the court that the turtles were accidentally caught in a gill net.
Frazer interrupted him, asking him why he did not throw them back into the sea.
Sedacy replied, “Because it was already dead.”
The magistrate told him that this is one of those offenses which call for a fine and imprisonment.
In outlining the facts of the case, the Fisheries Department prosecutor Hampton Gamboa told the court that the police from Prescient 2 handed over the fisheries products on Friday, April 11, when their officers went to the police station, where they counted the lobster tails in the presence of Sedacy.
When asked by Frazer if he was in agreement with the facts presented, Sedacy said he agreed.
But when she asked him what he had to say for mitigation, before she passed sentence on him, Sedacy replied, “I have nothing to say.”
Frazer explained to him, “I’m leaning on a fine and imprisonment; you have to convince me why I should not send you to prison.”
Sedacy then told the court, “I have two children and really no wan go da jail, Your Honor.”
Frazer added, “The law goes further and speaks about confiscating boat and equipment. The turtle is protected. There is a reason why that is there.”
Sedacy explained that this was his first offense and asked that he be given a break.
At this point, he repeated himself, saying, “I really no wan go da jail!”
The magistrate told him, “I already heard that.”
“Please give me a break, Your Honor; I will pay the money, if I get charged. I will pay it today, Your Honor.”
“You have $4,000 to pay today, because it’s $1,000 per turtle. And you have to go da jail, because they charged you with a firearm offense,” Frazer informed him.
For the 31 lobster tails, the court fined him $650 and ordered him to pay by May 15. If he defaults, he will have to serve six months in prison.
For the four turtles, he was fined $4,000 and ordered to pay by April 30; in default of payment he will serve one year in prison. He was remanded, however, on the firearm charge.