In what may be the oldest case ever in this country, a man who was charged for stealing $100 from a delivery truck driver and $369.60 from a parlour owner, was yesterday fined $4,500 by a San Fernando High Court judge — 31 years after he was arrested and charged.
When Eddy Williams first stood in court back in 1986, he was 29 and had a full head of black hair. Yesterday, the greying 60-year-old stood before Justice Maria Wilson to finally face justice. The judge questioned why the state, within the past 31 years, did not pursue Williams when he absconded to the United States.
“It is unacceptable,” Justice Wilson said as she spoke of the length of time this case remained ‘active’ in the court system over three decades ago. The judge opined that the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions should have pursued the accused. Williams pleaded guilty last Friday before Justice Wilson on a charge of robbing a soft drink salesman of $100 and a parlour owner of $369.60 at Clearwater, Rio Claro on October 28, 1986.
At the time of the robbery, George Chambers (deceased) was Prime Minister, but his PNM party would be crushed two months later 33-3, by the NAR. At that time, policemen wore short pants as part of their regular uniform. “That’s What Friends Are For”, by Dionne and Friends (Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Elton John and Stevie Wonder) was top of the US billboard charts while David Rudder, with ‘The Hammer’ and ‘Bahia Girl’, was TT’s Calypso Monarch.
State Prosecutor Sarah De Silva told the judge that Williams used a pellet-gun (an air rifle) to rob the salesman of $100. Williams then robbed the parlour proprietor of $369.60. It was at about 1 pm. At the time of the robbery, a 23-year-old Giselle La Ronde-West, Miss TT, was crowned Miss World. Oprah Winfrey’s talk show debuts, Mike Tyson became the youngest Heavyweight World Champion and Ronald Reagan was the US President.
Following Williams’ arrest, police charged him with two counts of robbery with aggravation.
Two years later in 1988, a Preliminary Inquiry was held in the Rio Claro Magistrates’ court and Williams was committed to stand trial in the High Courts. The Office of the DPP prepared the indictment and police went to Williams’ home to serve it, but he was not there. All efforts to contact him were futile. He was nowhere to be found, having fled to the US. There was therefore no record to show that the indictment was served on Williams. The file remained in abeyance and Williams’ case never came up for hearing in the High Court.
In 2014, Williams returned home. Relatives told him that police had a warrant out for his arrest and he surrendered to the Rio Claro police. No officer at the station, knew who he was and they had to check the records to get the warrant. Williams spent nine months in jail before he was granted bail.
For the past six months, the case came up for trial during which Williams attended court on each and every occasion. Justice Wilson conducted a Maximum Sentencing Indicator session, on the request of Williams’ attorney Wilston Campbell. On Friday last, Williams pleaded guilty to the two counts of robbery with aggravation.
In passing sentence yesterday, Wilson said 31 years is a long time for a case to come up for trial and this was a mitigating factor in Williams’ favour. She then set five years as the sentence although the maximum sentence is 15 years. After making certain deductions to the five year sentence, Williams was left with seven months imprisonment, but the judge said nothing useful would be gained by sending him to prison.
She fined Williams $4,500 to cover both charges and granted him until June 13, to pay. Failure to do so, would mean a ten-month stint in prison. Speaking later, Williams admitted he was “young and going through a phase” when he committed the crimes.