By Dreylan Johnson
Nearly six months after being charged, Regan Rodrigues was yesterday sentenced to three years imprisonment for escaping custody, but cleared of the gun and ammunition possession charge which linked him to the murder of political activist Courtney Crum-Ewing.
Rodrigues, known as ‘Grey Boy,’ was in July 2015 charged with unlicensed possession of a Taurus pistol and 14 live rounds of ammunition. The gun was later reported to be linked to the murder of Crum-Ewing and formed the basis for the murder charge against Rodrigues. The man was also charged with escaping lawful custody, pending criminal charges for the firearm and ammunition possession.
Yesterday’s decision was handed down by Magistrate Fabayo Azore, who stated that the prosecution had failed to prove that Rodrigues had had knowledge and possession of the articles. She was, however, satisfied that he was arrested and escaped custody, leading her to find him guilty of that charge.
Rodrigues, 37, was sentenced to three years in prison for the crime of escaping lawful custody. The maximum penalty for such an offence is five years imprisonment.
The prosecution’s case regarding the firearm and ammunition possession was that on July 13, at Riverview, Ruimveldt, the police were in the process of performing raids in search of guns, drugs, ammunition and other items, when they went to the home of the accused.
There, they conducted a search on Rodrigues’ person, but found nothing. They then proceeded to search the house and it was there, under a chair, that they discovered the firearm and ammunition. The defendant was then asked if he was the holder of a firearm licence, to which he replied no, leading to his arrest. However, police said that as he was being escorted out, Rodrigues pushed one of the officers down and escaped. He later turned himself in at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
The defence’s argument was that Rodrigues was not there when the gun was found and that in the case the articles were discovered at the residence, an issue of multiple occupancy arises.
Magistrate Azore explained that it was up to the prosecution to prove that Rodrigues knew the gun and ammunition existed and had possession and control of the articles.
She stated that in regards to multiple occupancy, this fact was corroborated by witness testimonies from Rodrigues’ girlfriend as well as a police rank, who testified that he’d had cause to visit the residence on several occasions and knew of others living there at the time.
The magistrate went on to state that the prosecution had not satisfied the court that the defendant had knowledge of the firearm, nor had they led evidence to suggest that he was the owner of the home. Furthermore, the items had not been discovered in Rodrigues’ bedroom or in a public place in the house, but had been concealed, which was enough to create reasonable doubt that the defendant knew of the articles’ existence.
Given these reasons, Rodrigues was found not guilty of the charge.
The defendant, leaving the docks following the handing down of the sentence, uttered a soft thank you to the magistrate and, teary-eyed, kissed his grandmother, who has been present at every hearing, on the cheek.
Although the decision in this matter has been long awaited, Rodrigues is still to face a preliminary inquiry (PI) into the charge that he murdered Crum-Ewing. The PI, which is being overseen by Magistrate Judy Latchman, is set to begin on January 27.
Crum-Ewing was killed on the evening of March 10, 2015 at Diamond, East Bank Demerara as he was urging residents to vote at the May, 2015 elections.
He was shot five times, including three times to the head.
For weeks prior to his death, he had held a one-man protest outside the office of then Attorney General Anil Nandlall, calling for his resignation over controversial statements he made during a telephone conversation with a Kaieteur News reporter that was made public.
Rodrigues was charged with Crum-Ewing’s murder after police allegedly linked the gun found in the man’s home to the deceased.