US businessman convicted in Dominica for illegal importation of gun

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

A 79-year-old United States businessman has been fined EC$7,500 after he pleaded guilty to gun-related charges on Tuesday.

The court heard that on January 24, 2024, William Elton Kennedy of Louisiana arrived here with his wife and two pilots on his private jet at the Douglas Charles Airport. He had in his possession a nine mm pistol and two .9mm magazines one with 11 rounds and the other 13 rounds of ammunition.

Kennedy did not declare the items to the Customs and Immigration and when returned to the airport on January 28, the pilot, Phillip Schiatel, during his inspection discovered the firearm and ammunition inside the aircraft and informed the ground handlers.

The police were called and the firearm and ammunition were handed over to them.

Kennedy admitted that he had failed to declare the firearm and ammunition, telling the authorities “I came down with it but did not know that I could not travel with it to Dominica.”

Kennedy was arrested and slapped with a charge of importation of a firearm, importation of ammunition into Dominica without a firearm and ammunition license. But those two charges were withdrawn by the prosecution after he pleaded guilty to his failure to declare the firearm and ammunition to customs.

In his mitigating plea, attorney Wayne Norde told the court that his client was 79 years old and travelled to Dominica for business purposes, was at the court’s mercy with no previous convictions, and had not wasted the court’s time pleading guilty at the “first opportunity.

“He was very cooperative with the police, customs, and immigration, he was the one who told them about the firearm in the aircraft so he was honest from the word go and yes his honesty brought him to court,” Norde said.

He asked the court to use its “discretion based on the facts, give his client a strong warning and reprimand and discharge him,” adding “this is not a case of a custodial sentence, the facts of this case are special.”

But Magistrate Michael Laudat told him that ignorance of the law is no excuse and while he will not impose a “custodial sentence he must look at the public’s interest in the matter.

“I’m not going to impose a custodial sentence on you, you have fully cooperated, you pleaded guilty and did not subject the court to a prolonged trial,” the Magistrate said.

Kennedy was given a fine of EC$7,500.00 for the failure to declare a firearm to customs and for the ammunition charge with no separate penalty. The fine was paid immediately.

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