PHILIPSBURG--Three staff members of Save-A-Lot Home Center on Bush Road, stood trial Thursday, on allegations of mistreatment, deprivation of liberty and theft with violence. These crimes were allegedly committed against two company workers on March 11, 2013.
Suspects M.M.M. (43), S.A. (30) and M.R.A. (28) had uncovered that two employees had been misappropriating merchandise and money from the store. In confronting these workers with their wrongdoings, the three defendants had exerted violence, the Prosecutor's Office stated.
Suspects M.M.M. and S.A. did not deny violence was used during a fight with victim K. from Guyana, but questioned the severity of the injuries. The victim, who had been working at the store for four years, had claimed he was punched in his face which caused a bruised cheek. He also told the police he was lashed on his back with an electrical cord during the fight outside the company's warehouse, which is located next to the store.
Defendant M.R.A. claimed he was not present as he had been at the gym and in the mosque during the time of the fight. After the fight, the victim was taken back into the store, where he was held against his will for three hours, according to the prosecutor.
"Why did you do this?" the Judge wanted to know. "You could have fired him," the Judge said.
The three suspects were also accused of theft with violence of then Save-A-Lot employee S. from Venezuela. In confessing the theft, K. had pointed at S. as being his associate. A group of eight Save-A-Lot staffers, including the store owner, visited his home at 10:00pm that night. S. was also threatened and beaten up and his cell phone was taken away from him, he had said.
According to Save-A-Lot, K. stole more than US $20,000 in furniture from the company's warehouse in Cole Bay with the use of a false key.
S., the suspects claimed, had borrowed $5,000 from the store owners, claiming that his father was sick. He, however, had fooled them and was planning to return to his homeland Venezuela without paying them back.
Also in this incident, the judge questioned the defendants' modus operandi. "Shouldn't you have used a bailiff to get your money back?" he asked.
Prosecutor Tineke Kamps said she lent more credibility to the victims' statements in this case than to those of the three defendants. She said the victims were "completely" beaten up and one of them had been locked up in the store between 6:45pm and 9:45pm because he was suspected of theft. "This is taking the law into your own hands. They should have reported the theft to the police," said the prosecutor.
Kamps said all three defendants, who had been held in pre-trial detention from March 13, 2013, until April 8, 2013, were equally guilty of mistreatment. The prosecutor took into account that all defendants were first offenders and also considered the fact that the crime was committed two years ago.
Holding all three equally responsible, the prosecutor requested prison sentences of 276 days, 250 or which are to be suspended, on three years' probation, and 80 hours of community service.
Attorney-at-law Brenda Brooks pleaded for her clients' full acquittal. She claimed K. had started the fight and said suspect S.A. should be acquitted of mistreatment because he had to defend himself against the attack and had not used excessive violence.
According to the lawyer, all charges should be dropped for lack of evidence and the absence of reliable witness' statements. The court will give its decision April 9.