The fate of a Marigot man, Paul Guiste, is in the hands of High Court Judge, Justice Wynante Adrien-Roberts, who will hand down her sentence to him today for the offense of Unlawful Sexual Connection (USC) and indecent assault.
In 2018, Guiste, who was 55-years at the time, committed sexual acts against an 18-year-old girl in Marigot.
Guiste drove the young adult to an isolated area, offered her $40.00 for sexual favours which she refused but he forcefully performed oral sex on her.
He then attempted to initiate intercourse without her consent but stopped after the victim pleaded with him.
During his plea in mitigation to the court, the attorney for the defendant, Wayne Norde, pleaded with the court to impose a non-custodial sentence.
While admitting that some of the aggravating factors which go against his client are the breach of trust and the age disparity between Guiste and the victim, Norde pointed to his client’s level of remorse and the father of eleven’s financial commitment to his family.
“There are no winners,” Norde told the court. “There cannot be winners in such matters.”
The attorney urged the Judge to give benefits to Guiste for exercising “great restraint” as he did not have sexual intercourse with the young adult.
He added that his client had no previous convictions for sex-related offenses, he was remorseful for his actions, and was willing to apologize to the Virtual Complaint (VC) in open court as attempts by Guiste to apologize in person were not accepted by the victim and her mother.
The defense attorney further asked the court to award Guiste a one-third reduction of his sentence for his guilty plea. However, Justice Adrien-Roberts informed the attorney that a guilty plea to USC was only rendered after a jury was empanelled. Nevertheless, the Judge did note that some discount would be provided to the defendant.
Norde further posited that Guiste does not present any damage to the public or the victim, indicating a prospect of rehabilitation.
Judicial authorities set the maximum penalty for the offense of unlawful sexual connection at 14-years imprisonment. Norde averred that the offense falls within category three and the court should consider a starting point of 30% of the maximum sentence.
He added that since the mitigating factors far outweighed the aggravating factors, the court should consider a suspended jail sentence.
“So we are asking that you temper justice with mercy,” he stated to Justice Adrien-Roberts. “This is not the worst of the worst cases in terms of sexual assault cases, so please, give this hard-working farmer another chance.”
However, in her address to the court, State attorney Daina Matthew said the prosecution is requesting a custodial sentence given the circumstances.
She advised the court that a suspended sentence can only be considered when the Judge’s final sentence is two years or less.
Matthew said that though there are instances where the court can step away from the sentencing guidelines, that is, exceptional circumstances where such departure can be justified, she is of the view that the defense attorney has presented none and a non-custodial sentence would not be in the interest of justice.
According to her, the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating factors and the offense falls in category two.
The prosecutor suggested that the court should consider a starting point of 45% of the maximum sentence.
In arriving at this sentence, Matthew said some factors taken into account are the fact that the victim attempted to get out of the bus on many occasions and no genuine remorse was demonstrated by Guiste for his action.
“Even after having pled guilty to the offense, the defendant maintains that he had some arrangement with the victim and as such he should not be held accountable. He insisted that the victim and her mother were trying to wrongfully frame him. He expressed regret for the current state which he found himself in, “ Matthew stated.
The State attorney suggested a sentence of four years, three months, and two weeks for the offense of USC and for the lesser charge of indecent assault, a sentence of one year and seven months to run concurrently based on the issue of totality.