AG defends premature release of tourist from HMS

Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin (File photo)

Attorney General, Steadroy Benjamin is defending the decision of the early release of U.S. tourist, Shannon Martinez, who was sentenced to one year in prison for ammunition possession.

Several people have expressed outrage that Martinez served only one day in jail.

But the attorney general claims that it is not the first time under the labour party administration that a person’s sentence has been remitted.

Martinez, who was vacationing here with her family, was arrested when she tried to leave Antigua via the V. C. Bird International Airport with live rounds in her luggage. She pleaded guilty to the charge of ammunition possession.

In defending the decision in the wake of public criticism, Benjamin said that a decision was taken to release the woman, based on a recommendation from the superintendent of prisons, Albert Wade.

The attorney general stressed that Wade’s decision was “within the law”.

Benjamin further stated that he is inclined to comply once the superintendent decides and recommends that an individual should be given a remission of sentence.

“Mr. Wade indicated he conducted independent assessment, and in his own judgment, he thought that this was a fit and proper procedure to adopt in the circumstances. He wrote me a detailed letter and quoted the law under which he was acting, and I agreed with the recommendation.”

The attorney general further stated that the report showed that the accused had no prior convictions in the United States or Antigua, and though the incident showed a certain level of negligence on her part, it did not show any criminal intent.

He disclosed that he and Wade had met before this incident to discuss remission for certain inmates.

Benjamin added that discussions are ongoing and recommendations will soon be made regarding the manner and type of remittance for prisoners, who participate in the government’s Home Advancement Programme for the Indigent (HAPI).

“We have been considering that proposal for several weeks and Mr. Wade has been conducting his studies and he will be making his recommendations. When he makes them and the reason for his recommendations are considered the decision will be made whether to act upon it or not,” the attorney general said.

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