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Anthony Francois leaves the Colonarie Mag. Court on Thursday, June 29, 2023.
Anthony Francois leaves the Colonarie Mag. Court on Thursday, June 29, 2023.
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An 28-year-old Orange Hill man may be counting his lucky star after being spared immediate prison time over 16 bunches of mature plantains that he stole.

On Thursday, Magistrate Bertie Pompey, presiding at the Colonarie Magistrate’s Court, sitting in Georgetown, opted not to jail Anthony Francois, of Orange Hill, who he four days earlier convicted of selling the agricultural produce to Curlic Caesar, of Richland Park.

Caesar, who was represented by lawyer Noel Bruce, was initially charged alongside Francois, but the charge against her was dismissed.

The charges stemmed from Feb. 3, at Tourama, where Francois sold Caesar 16 bunches of mature horse plantains, reasonably suspected to be stolen or unlawfully obtained.

The prosecution called four witnesses, including the virtual complainant, Anthonetta Durham, of Clare Valley, who owns and farms the land from which the plantains were stolen.

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Durham told the court that she visited the farm on Feb. 2, and everything was in order when she left.

She returned to the farm on Feb. 4 and discovered the 16 bunches of horse plantains were missing.

The farmer valued one bunch of the fruit at EC$150, resulting in a total value of EC$2,400 for the 16 bunches.

The second witness, Alphano Jordan, of Overland, testified that he was at the back of his house when he saw a yellow truck parked on the main road to Durham’s field.  

He said he saw Francois, who he has known for over 10 years, head onto Durham’s farm and return with plantains to the main road where the truck was parked.

Police Constable 1103 Nanton testified that he visited the scene and subsequently handed over the investigation to PC 509 Clarke to investigate further.

Clarke told the court that on Feb. 4, he visited Caesar at her residence and she handed over to him 15 bunches of plantains in five boxes, which she said she had bought from Francois.

During Clarke’s evidence, Noel objected to photographs of the boxes which allegedly contained the plantains being entered into evidence, and suggested that the plantains were interfered with.

The lawyer argued that the exhibits that Nanton and Caesar initialled were the boxes containing the plantains and not the plantains themselves.

Bruce said that the pictures presented in court were more of the boxes and there was only a slight glimpse of the plantains inside.

He said that the boxes were not sealed and what was inside could have been replaced.

However, the Prosecutor, Corporal Delando Charles argued that Bruce could not say “affirmatively” that the evidence was tampered with.

The magistrate allowed the photographs in evidence.

And, while Charles tested Clarke’s evidence, the witness identified a white tag in the photograph, as a label he had signed to mark the exhibits.  

Charles also asked Clarke why the exhibits were not presented to the court?

The witness told the court that plantains are perishable, adding that they began to rot and were disposed of.

Meanwhile, in his caution statement Francois said that on the day in question, he was picking coconuts for one “Taff”, who drives a yellow truck.

He said that Donna Charles told him to cut and sell the plantains and that she did not want any money for them.

Francois said that as he was going home, he met a green truck and Caesar was inside.

He said he stopped the truck and enquired if Caesar was buying plantains and she confirmed.

Francois said Caesar said she was buying at 70 cents per pound and he journeyed back to the road leading to the farm with Caesar and he sold her the plantains.

He said Caesar also asked him if he had stolen the plantains and he told her, “people always ah run me down“.

Meanwhile, In her caution statement, Caesar said she met Francois when he stopped her vehicle and asked if she buys plantains.

She said the defendant gave his name as “Sardaman” and she did not ask for his farmer’s identification card but he also didn’t have one.

She said she still bought the plantains as they were scarce, paying him EC$225 for the 322lbs of plantain.

Caesar told the court when people told her she had purchased “thief” items, she returned to find Francois, and both he and Taff convinced her that the items were not stolen. 

She said the defendant “even convinced me that is his plantain field”.

Francois did not give evidence in court, but said he was relying on his caution statement.

Prosecutor Charles put it to Francois that he went to Durham’s land and cut 16 bunches of horse bananas

The defendant told the court, “I can’t recall cutting 16; I remember cutting six bunches.”

No case submission

Bruce told the court the prosecution has failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. 

He said at the time of buying the plantains Caesar did not know they were stolen.

He said there was no evidence to prove that Caesar knew the plantains were stolen, adding that his client took steps to ensure that the items were not stolen.

But Charles countered that the prosecution had proven its case, saying, “We’ve come to the threshold where the defendant (Caesar) received plantain for her own benefit.”

He said the case was one of “greed and dishonesty”.

In relation to Francois, Charles told the court that the defendant lives in a community where the farmers depend on their produce.

“Fifteen bunches of plantains for EC$225. If that is not dishonesty, I don’t know what is!” Charles said.

Pompey said in relation to Caesar, two issues came out in the case: the price she paid was “substantially less” than Durham’s value of her plantains; and knowledged that at the time of the transaction, Caesar did not know that the items were stolen. 

He said that Francois and Taff had assured her  that they are not stolen.

“Persons must be careful when purchasing goods,” Pompey said. “You’re putting other people in jeopardy.”

Pompey said the labelled boxes should have been presented to the court as evidence.

At Francois’ sentencing last Thursday, Pompey said he had thought a lot about the matter over the previous days. 

He said he would have jailed Francois if he had a previous convictions or theft.

However, Francois’ previous convictions included possession of an offensive weapon, resisting arrest and assault occasioning bodily harm.

Pompey ordered the defendant to pay compensation in the amount of EC$2,400 in one month. In default, he will spend five months in prison.