Headline — 01 March 2017 — by Rowland A. Parks
Sticky-fingered cop sentenced to 3 months for theft

BELIZE CITY, Fri. Feb. 24, 2017–A police constable who was interdicted from duty in late 2014, pending the outcome of a case of theft, will most likely be dismissed from the Belize Police Department because he was found guilty of theft this morning and sentenced to three months in prison.

Police Constable Jamil Scott was charged with one count of theft for a Kenwood police radio that had gone missing from a police pickup that was parked in front of the Racoon Street Police Station. Scott’s girlfriend at the time, Chelsia Zapata, 28, was charged with one count of handling stolen goods.

After Chief Magistrate Ann Marie Smith summarized the evidence presented during the trial, she found Scott guilty, but found that Zapata was not guilty of handling stolen goods because she had no idea that the radio which Scott had put in her handbag was government property that he had stolen from the Police Department.

After Chief Magistrate Smith found Scott guilty, she ordered that he be held in custody until sentencing, which was today.

Scott’s attorney, Leroy Banner, however, who entered the case late after his client had failed to challenge crucial prosecution evidence that led to his conviction, decided to make a submission and mitigation plea on his behalf. Banner submitted that his client had no previous criminal record and that under the law, “Your Honor can impose a fine, instead of a custodial sentence.”

Chief Magistrate Smith said, “There is nothing more obnoxious than a dirty cop. And he was a dirty cop. Therefore, I have to send a message to other potential dirty cops, that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated. I have to send a strong message.”

“I have to send a message for two reasons: A lesson has to be learnt by you and to send a message to other police officers out there that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated,” Chief Magistrate Smith said with finality.

Banner’s response was, “Guided, Your Honor,” and prosecutor Triennia Young chimed in, “Much obliged.”

In her review of the evidence at the trial, Chief Magistrate Smith said a total of 8 witnesses were called by the Crown. The two accused gave unsworn statements from the dock and did not call any witnesses.

She said that the Crown’s case was based on circumstantial evidence and inferences that PC Scott appropriated the hand-held police radio, valued at $650.

Woman Corporal Sherica Vasquez testified that on September 20, 2014, she was assigned the radio and at the end of her tour of duty that night, she left the radio inside a grey Cherokee Pickup truck that PC Scott used to pick up another policeman, PC Hamilton.

PC Hamilton testified that he never saw the police radio, nor did he hear any broadcast from it. Hamilton also testified that he and other police officers, including PC Scott, had done a search at 80 Antelope Street, Shannon Davis’ home, and when the search was completed, Davis complained that one of the officers had stolen her husband’s wrist watch. Scott had told Davis to “Look inna yu rubbish upstairs,” before he and the other police officers walked back to the Racoon Street Police Station. Hamilton testified that he reported the incident to their supervisor, Superintendent Alford Grinage.

When police began to inquire about the whereabouts of the handheld radio, it was nowhere to be found. Police decided to visit Scott’s house and when they arrived, they saw him and Zapata leaving on a motorcycle. Superintendent Grinage told Scott to head back to the Racoon Police Station because he wanted to see him.

Scott, however, decided to drop off Zapata at the Novelo’s Bus Terminal. Police followed Scott on the motorcycle to the Novelo’s bus terminal and when Zapata dismounted, WPC Alvarez searched her purse and found the police radio and other items in it.

Senior Superintendent Grinage testified that he saw WPC Alvarez retrieve the hand-held radio from Zapata.

Zapata, in her statement to police, explained that Scott had put the radio in a black plastic bag in her blue Cheetah designer purse.

In dismissing the charge against Zapata, Chief Magistrate Smith said the Crown had not proven that Zapata knew that the stuff Scott had put in her bag was stolen.

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