Trinidad: Judge in rape case gets Facebook friend request

The San Fernando Supreme Court

(TRINIDAD EXPRESS) The decision by the daughter of a rape convict to send a Facebook friend request to the presiding judge who is due to sentence him, was raised before the court on Friday.

In June, a jury found Mukesh “Legs” Ganpat guilty of the rape of a then 18-yar-old student. She had accepted a drop home from Ganpat whom she had known for over 12 years. He instead took her to a house near the Devil’s Woodyard where he raped her.

The incident happened in June 2004 when Ganpat was 34-years-old. He is now 48 years.

The matter came up for hearing before San Fernando Second Criminal Court Justice Hayden St Clair-Douglas for the prosecution to address on the mitigating and aggravating factors before sentencing.

Before the attorneys spoke, the judge addressed the Facebook friend request. He said the person who sent it was seated in court.

St Clair-Douglas wondered why the request was sent and said it was “entirely inappropriate”.

He said he it was equivalent to the sender attempting to walk up to him and discuss her father’s case. “I don’t think she would be mad enough to do that. How could she feel that she could approach me by that means (on Facebook)?”

St Clair-Douglas did not respond to the request.

Defence attorney Chris Ramlal said he was not aware of the request and the judge said he did not mean to ambush him with the information “but imagine my state when I saw the request.”

Ramlal was given the opportunity to speak to his client’s 23-year-old daughter. The attorney returned to say, “She indicated that it was not directly searching his name but coming up as a suggestion on her profile.”

St Clair Douglas however said that the suggestion would display when people have friends in common. “Who do we have in common besides this this man (Ganpat) and he is not my Facebook friend.”

He asked the purpose for her attempting to become friends with him on social media and Ramlal said it was not intentionally done. “She wishes to apologise and tremendously regrets that request and action and now understands the severity of the action,” Ramlal said.

After Ramlal’s explanation of the incident, the judge heard the submissions from the attorneys as it pertained to Ganpat’s sentencing.

Ramlal said that while the victim could have faced emotional injury and there was a breach of trust, no weapons were used in the commission of the crime and there were no threats to the victim. He also said that Ganpat was a person who was receiving public assistance and had no previous convictions.

State attorney Trevor Jones spoke of the psychological effects of rape. He also said that Ganpat was an adult at the time, that he was in a positon of trust, the act was deliberate and premediated and the disparity of age between Ganpat and the victim. Jones also spoke of the seriousness and prevalence of the crime in society.

He suggested an appropriate sentence would be 18 years.

The maximum sentence is life in prison.

It was the State’s case that on June 30 2004, the victim was waiting for a taxi for home for about 45 minutes when Ganpat pulled up and offered her a ride. The 18-year-old secondary school pupil, accepted. Along the way, Ganpat said he had to pass by a friend’s house and the teen made no objection.

Under cross examination during the trial, the victim said she was getting a drop and people would have things to do and she could not have a problem that.

Before reaching his friend’s home, Ganpat bought drinks. The victim did not drink any alcohol.

They arrived at the house around 8 p.m. It was located near the Devil’s Woodyard. The area was lonely and the house had no electricity. Ganpat came out the car and spoke to his friend. He called the victim out the vehicle and she obliged. She was looking at the area and at some point Ganpat started pulling her under the house. She tried to escape but he was able to get her under the wooden house where he raped her.

She later went to the hospital and a nurse contacted the police.

Jones’s case was that Ganpat told the police he kissed and fondled the victim’s breast but did not rape her and that he signed documents stating this.

During the trial, however, Ganpat denied the utterance and that he raped the girl. He said he signed a paper and the station diary after a police officer spoke roughly to him.

The father of three who said he unable to work since 1989 after being injured by a trap gun, gave evidence during the trial and brought his wheel-chair bound wife to give evidence on his behalf.

Ganpat is expected to be sentenced on November 30.

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