By FARRAH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Court of Appeal yesterday quashed the armed robbery sentences of two men who were accused of stealing an assortment of items from a woman in 2014, after they argued the trial judge erred when he allowed “prejudicial evidence” to be admitted into their trial.
On July 19, 2017, Everton Wright and Lordson Allonce were found guilty of armed robbery. At the time, Wright was convicted of armed robbery and receiving, while Allonce was convicted of armed robbery, possession of ammunition and possession of an unlicenced firearm.
Wright was subsequently sentenced to eight years in prison for armed robbery and two years for receiving, which were ordered to run concurrently. Allonce was sentenced to eight years for armed robbery, three years for illegal firearm possession and three years for ammunition possession. Those sentences were ordered to run concurrently as well.
Both men appealed their convictions after arguing the verdict was “unsafe and unsatisfactory,” among other issues.
Yesterday, Justices Sir Michael Barnett, Jon Isaacs and Milton Evans quashed the armed robbery sentences after revealing they “harboured a lurking doubt” in respect to the charge.
According to a judgment posted on the Court of Appeal’s website, on March 3, 2014, Gia Hart was in a parking lot near the Royal Bank of Canada’s Prince Charles Drive branch, when she was approached by a man she alleged was armed with a firearm, who robbed her of a blue Gucci bag, a cell phone, a purse, sunglasses and about six hundred dollars worth of cash.
“On 5 March 2014, the police stopped the IA (Allonce), who was driving in his vehicle: a 2005 Honda Accord, along with a passenger, his co-accused, Everton Wright (‘Wright’) in the parking lot of Commonwealth Bank in the area of Carmichael Road and Baillou Hill Road,” the court documents read. “The IA’s explanation for being in the area was that he was going to use the bank’s ATM machine”.
The documents said the police searched the car during the stop, but did not find anything besides some articles of clothing on the back seat. Still, when the officers searched Wright’s person, they found a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses and a cell phone. The items were later identified by Ms. Hart as her property which had been stolen.
As a result, Allonce and Wright were taken into custody while the vehicle was taken to the Internal Security Division. Eight hours after the car was detained, police searched it again and found a firearm and ammunition that were hidden in the dashboard area. At the time, Allonce denied all knowledge of the weapon and ammunition. None of his fingerprints were found on the firearm either.
“Ms Hart did not identify IA (Allonce) or anyone else for that matter as being involved in the robbery. Her description of the robber: kind of heavy, dark skinned man, is said to be at odds with the physical appearance of the IA; and the accent she said was used by the robber did not, according to the IA, match the IA’s. The case against the IA in respect of the armed robbery was entirely circumstantial. At the trial, he asserted that the police had planted the firearm and ammunition in his vehicle. The inference to be drawn from that assertion is that they were trying to ‘frame’ him”.
After reviewing the case, the justices concluded they would quash Allonce’s armed robbery conviction and set aside the imposed sentence. Still, they said based on the evidence provided, they would affirm his convictions and sentences for the illegal firearm and ammunition charges.
As it relates to Wright, the justices also ruled there was “insufficient evidence placed before the jury” to prove he was involved in the armed robbery. They said this was because his presence in the white Honda could not be considered “conclusive evidence” in the absence of other facts that could link Wright to the crime.
“The appeals of the Director of Public Prosecutions against Allonce and Wright’s sentences are dismissed,” the panel ruled.
“The extension of time application for both Allonce and Wright regarding the armed robbery is acceded to and their convictions for armed robbery are quashed; and the sentences imposed for that offence is set aside. Allonce’s extension of time application pertaining to the possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition charges is dismissed; and the convictions and sentences are affirmed. Wright’s conviction for receiving stands, as does the sentence imposed for that offence. The sentences will run from the date the men were reduced into custody”.