Man gets life sentence for attempted murder, robbery of City Mall businesswoman

-co-accused sentenced to 15 years

John Caesar and Marissa George, the two persons convicted for the attempted murder of businesswoman Dhanwantie Phulchand in an attack at the City Mall, were yesterday handed a life sentence and a 15-year sentence, respectively, for the crime.

Justice Sandil Kissoon delivered the sentences at the High Court in Georgetown, where Caesar and George were found guilty earlier this month by a 12-member jury in both the attempted murder and robbery of Phulchand, the owner of Rishma’s Collection, on the afternoon of July 4th, 2009.

Caesar was also sentenced to life for the violent robbery, in which US $2,000, GY$100,000 and other items were taken, while George was given a 10-year sentence for the crime. Their sentences will run concurrently.

The emotions written on the faces of Caesar and George were as different as night and day. Caesar was visibly angry throughout the proceedings yesterday, while George wept even before the hearing started.

Prior to sentencing, the court heard from Senior Probation and Social Services officer Aggrey Azore, who prepared probation reports on Caesar and George. The reports, which were presented to both the prosecution and the attorneys for the accused, were admitted into evidence and treated as read since all parties were privy to them.

No mercy

In addressing the court, Caesar maintained his innocence and subsequently lashed out at prosecutor Abigail Gibbs. “I wouldn’t be the first or the last person to be judged for something I didn’t do,” he said, before adding, “I’m a good cook. I’m a chef. Any blood I does be seeing is from the chicken I kill.”

Caesar continued his speech and began to rain insults upon the prosecutor before trying to exonerate George of any wrongdoing. “I would take any sentence you about to give me. Send this lady [pointing to George] home. She said she didn’t know me, she wasn’t there…,” he said.

After his speech, attorney Brandon De Santos, who represented Caesar, attempted to mop up the mess his client had made. The attorney told the court that according to his client’s probation report, Caesar had a hard life and dropped out of school at the age of 14 in order to work to support his family. The attorney said that his client was robbed of his teenage years and forced into adulthood.

While De Santos submitted that it was Caesar’s first violent crime and that he would have already spent time in custody, Prosecutor Gibbs told the court that Caesar was convicted and sentenced for two robberies, had escaped from custody and was charged with murder in April, 2018, for which he was committed to stand trial. He was also charged with another count of attempted murder but the complainant was compensated and did not proceed with the matter.

Gibbs noted that based on Caesar’s antecedents, he could be considered a menace to society. Throughout the attack, the prosecutor noted, the defendant was focused on the complainant’s head and showed no remorse for what he would have done.

This argument did not sit well with Caesar, who stood in the court dock and challenged the prosecutor’s submissions. “I feel she’s an angel of death,” he blurted out before being told by the Judge that he had his chance to speak.

In continuing her submissions, the prosecutor urged that no mercy be shown to Caesar in light of his attitude to both the complainant and to the court.

Justice Kissoon subsequently told Caesar that he was viewed as a menace to society and that in considering his sentence the court took into consideration his prior convictions, the brutality of the crime and his commission of an offence while he was on bail for another.

As a result, the judge handed down life sentences for both crimes, while saying that he would not be considered eligible for parole until he would have served 35 years in jail. Both sentences are to run concurrently, which means that Caesar would only serve one life sentence.

After he was sentenced, Caesar smiled as he was being removed from the court dock and began to hurl insulting remarks at the prosecutor as she proceeded down the hallway.

Just sorry

Meanwhile, George was contrite. “I’m sorry for what happened… I’m happy the woman didn’t dead… I’m just sorry,” she said prior to being sentenced.

Her attorney, Damian DaSilva, in mitigation, noted that George was just 16-years-old when the crimes were committed. He added that George had a clean record prior to the commission of the offences and her probation report made no mention of any transgressions before or after the crimes. He also said his client was not the principal offender but merely an accomplice.

Da Silva also highlighted the fact that George was exposed to dire circumstances, having dropped out of school in fourth form as a result of financial difficulties her mother was experiencing.

Her strong family support, he argued, increases her chances of rehabilitation and reintegration into society, which, coupled with all the other mitigating factors, are grounds as to why a lesser sentence should be given to his client.

However, Gibbs, in reply, told the court that George’s tender age should not be justification for her actions. The prosecution strongly argued that a message must be sent to young people that they should resist the temptation to commit an offence of such a nature. The prosecutor highlighted the fact that in the probation report for George she maintained her innocence. She went on to state that the defendant’s economic struggle were not grounds for her to commit the crimes and that according to the report she was versed in the area of electrical engineering, and shoe making, which she could have put to use.

The judge later told George that in considering her sentences, he took into consideration the prevalence of the crime, the importance of deterring other persons from committing the said offence, her favourable probation report, her age at the time of the commission of the crime and the mitigating facts presented by her attorney. He then began her sentence at 20 years for the attempted murder and subtracted five years for the mitigating factors. She was also sentenced to 10 years for the robbery, however, she will only serve 15 years as the two sentences are expected to run concurrently.

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