Simeon Pope following his sentence today, March 18, 2013
Photo Credit: Melissa Edwards/BVI Platinum News
High Court Judge, Albert Redhead told Simeon Pope to consider today his lucky day as he avoided an immediate custodial sentence.
Pope, 45, changed his plea to guilty on Friday March 15, for his involvement of the unauthorized sale of Government-owned vehicles in 2010. Pope, a Vincentian national had first pleaded not guilty to seven counts of obtaining property by deception.
Following a sentencing hearing today, March 18, Justice Redhead sentenced Pope three years in prison for each count suspended for one year. Further, he was fined $3,000.00 to be paid in two months and in default will spend 18 months in prison.
The Judge before handing down his sentence told Pope that he should consider today his lucky day.
Pope submitted a cheque of $3,900.00 as compensation to victims.
The maximum sentence for obtaining property by deception is 10 years.
Pope who was on remand from Friday, told BVI Platinum News that despite everything in life one has to learn a lesson and God is always on your side.
"I feel good. My thing is to continue my life as usual. Things happen and you learn from those situations...Imagine I was facing ten years in prison...God is always on your side," he said following the sentence.
Meanwhile, during the sentencing hearing, Justice Redhead told Pope that he went out his way to con the persons and used his position as an employee at Public Works Department (PWD) to indicate that he could have gotten the vehicles at a very low price.
The Judge said Pope changed his plea, but when he was almost finish wrapping up his summation to the jury.
Justice Redhead said Pope made him experience an unpleasant weekend as he kept thinking of what he should do with him today.
During her submissions to the Judge prior to sentencing, Prosecutor Christlyn Benjamin outlined aggravating factors including that there were multiple victims; it was done over a period of time showing that it was calculated and deliberated; and that there was some form of breach of trust.
She said the mitigating factors include that he pleaded guilty despite at the late stage, he fully reimbursed one of the victims, has no relevant previous conviction and he has shown remorse.
Attorney at law, Stephen Daniels who offered to assist Pope for the sentencing hearing told the court that he adopts the Judge´s position that Pope is stubborn as he chose to represent himself when he could have gotten assistance through legal aid. He said he misconceived between being smart and foolish.
He said Pope has been living in the Territory since 1996 and is the foster father of five children who he takes care of and also he is a divorcee. He said Pope is a father figure for two mentally challenged children in Sea Cows Bay.
Daniels said he worked at PWD as an Assistance Compressor Operator since 2004.
The lawyer said Pope does business for former legislator Eileen Parsons who is physically challenged. He said he acts as a go about person and driver for her.
He said Pope has stand surety for many youth who had court matters and he is also a member of the Festival and Fairs parade committee since 2004.
Daniels also noted that Pope is also a social and political commentator on almost every radio show. The lawyer said he personally made attempts for Pope to get the $3,900.00 to repay and this was successfully.
The lawyer urged the court not to send Pope to jail as he is needed out in the community.
However, Justice Redhead said it shows that Pope will not be punished if he was not the one that paid the compensation; however, Daniels said it was given by persons who Pope had rendered assistance to in the past. He said the persons don´t want to be known to Pope since they know he likes to chat.
It was the crown's case that Pope, who worked at the Public Works Department, collected monies from three men, promising to secure the purchase of Government-owned vehicles knowing that he was not in authority to do so.
The crown's case was that Pope deceived Alvin James, Peter Robinson and Harold John into letting them believe that as an employee of the Public Works Department (PWD), he could have helped them in securing the purchase of old Government vehicles.
Prosecution stated that Pope took the monies from the men for down payment, but they never supplied any vehicle. However, he repaid one of the complainants [John], but the crown had warned the jury not to be clouded by that since this payment came after the police was already involved in the matter.
Pope had made it clear that he does not deny taking the complainants' money, but said he did not do it out of deception.
The jury was also warned not to have sympathy for Pope because he represented himself, as it was his choice.