US businessman charged $7,500.00 for failing to declare firearm and ammunition

William Elton Kennedy, a United States of America citizen and founder of Kennedy Rice has paid a forthwith fine to the Court of $7,500.00, following his guilty plea of failing to declare one firearm and 24 rounds of ammunition. The 74-year-old of Mer Rouge, Louisiana, first appeared before the Roseau Magistrate Court on January 29, 2024, charged with importation of a firearm and 24 rounds of ammunition, without being the holder of a firearm import license, between January 24 to 28, 2024.

He elected a summary trial and pleaded not guilty to the two charges read to him. Police Prosecutor Inspector Francis Laville requested a brief adjournment to consult with the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Sherma Dalrymple, a request to which defence attorney Wayne Norde had no objections.

Kennedy was then granted bail in the sum of $50,000.00 by Magistrate Michael Laudat to return to Court the following day. At his reappearance in Court on January 30, the prosecution withdrew the importation charge and two charges of failing to declare were preferred against the US citizen which he pleaded guilty to.

According to the facts of the case, on January 24, 2024, Kennedy who was accompanied by his wife and two pilots arrived at the Douglas Charles Airport in Marigot on board his private Jet. On arrival he had in his possession, one black .9mm pistol along with two 9mm magazines, one containing eleven rounds of 9mm ammunition and the other
containing thirteen rounds of 9mm ammunition. Having disembarked the aircraft, he left the firearm and the ammunition on board near the exit hatch.

Whilst at the Immigration and Customs Department, Kennedy did not declare to the Customs officer that he had a firearm and ammunition on his aircraft. When questioned on whether he had anything to declare, Kennedy replied “No”, and he was allowed to leave.

On January 28, 2024, at about 11:00 a.m., the defendant along with his companions returned to the Douglas Charles Airport as they were scheduled to depart the island on that day. While preparing the aircraft, Pilot Phillip Schiatel discovered the firearm and the ammunition inside the aircraft close to the exit hatch and informed the ground handlers
Supervisor at the Douglas Charles Airport, Mrs. Philena George Auguiste.

The firearm and ammunition were then handed over to Corporal Paul Joseph of the Immigration Department in the presence of Kennedy.

Corporal Joseph identified himself to Kennedy and asked him whether he had an import license in respect of the firearm and ammunition to which he replied “No”. When questioned further about his reason for not declaring the firearm and ammunition to customs personnel he responded, “I came down with the firearm but I did not know that I could not travel to Dominica with it.”

That same day, Corporal Merlyn Maxime was on duty at the Drug Squad office when the matter was referred to her for investigation and she proceeded to the Douglas Charles Airport where investigation into the matter continued. During this time, Kennedy admitted to ownership of the firearm as he stated, “The firearm belongs to me, I have never fired it.”

Corporal Maxime asked the defendant what were his reasons for having the firearm and ammunition in his possession and cautioned him. He replied, “I didn’t have a reason because I did not know the gun was in the plane.”

Kennedy was subsequently arrested on suspicion of failing to declare the said firearm and ammunition to Customs officials at the airport. After the police investigation, on January 28, the charges were preferred against him and he was granted station bail in the sum of $50,000.00 to appear in Court the following day.

In his impassioned plea in mitigation to the Court, Defense attorney Wayne Norde articulated a compelling case for leniency on behalf of his client. He stated that the businessman who has an unblemished record, stood before the Court, having taken responsibility for his actions from the outset.

According to Norde, it was Kennedy’s honesty and cooperation that brought to light the presence of a firearm, a crucial detail that law enforcement would otherwise have remained unaware of. The defence attorney averred that the case had aggravating factors and underscored that the firearm had never left the aircraft during Kennedy’s visit to Dominica and was only disclosed because of his proactive approach.

Additionally, Norde appealed to the Court’s discretion, stating that this case was one for reprimand and discharge rather than a custodial sentence, particularly considering Kennedy’s age and lack of prior convictions.

However, Magistrate Laudat, while acknowledging the defendant’s cooperation with law enforcement, stressed the broader societal context, highlighting the pervasive issue of gun-related violence in the Caribbean. In delivering his verdict, Magistrate Laudat made it clear that ignorance of the law could not excuse Kennedy’s actions, given the gravity of firearm-related offences in the region.

The maximum penalty for both offences is $10,000.00- or two years imprisonment.

Deviating from the sentencing guideline, Magistrate Laudat stated it was not in the public’s interest to impose a custodial sentence against Kennedy. He however recognized his status as a non-national.

Consideration was given to the fact that Kennedy was a first-time offender, pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, and cooperated fully with law enforcement. The decision of the court was therefore a fine of $7,500.00 to be paid
forthwith. In default of the said payment, he would be imprisoned for six months. The fine was paid and Kennedy left the courtroom. The firearm and ammunition were forfeited to the state.

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  1. February 4, 2024

    Was ge too late. for the Amenity?

  2. Mwangie
    February 2, 2024

    In the first place, the man was charged for importation. The firearm NEVER left the aircraft until departure when the pilot told the ground handler of its presence. The Law says if the firearm was left on the aircraft, the Traveler has not imported. Section 37 of the Act. When this was brought to the notice of the prosecution, they sought to give the traveler another charge, thus failing to declare. Now, if he fails to declare, based on section 34 of the Act, the prosecution must prove that the firearm and or ammunition was either in his possession or alternatively under his control. The charge alleged that he had them in his possession or under his control. The question is, which one of the Actus Reus of the offence of failing to declare was the prosecution alleging? Both shouldn’t be included in the same charge. Basically, what the prosecution said to the court is, we do not know if the firearm and ammunition was in his possession or under his control. Such a charge is vague. It is…

  3. Joan
    February 1, 2024

    rules are rules but damn thats ones I would let slide, seeing as we know the government is faulty in protecting foreigners. Is a $7,500 fine worth what we lost in private jet level tourism?

  4. Man bite dogs
    February 1, 2024

    @Patti, sorry to say I didn’t understand one bit of your comments could you come back again? Having said that anything else sensible would not be published on this forum.

  5. Patti
    February 1, 2024

    You all have to quit that British colonial thing of declaring the police officers’ names just to make the story, it’s ‘the police’. It creates for more corruption if the family can find these officers and maybe simply pay them off. Don’t take my word for it, I’m only the 800lb gorilla. :-?

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