Shannon Martinez and the rest of her family – her husband and two children – planned to come to Antigua on holiday for only 12 days, but now she may be here for a year, not in a hotel on vacation, but in jail.
The U.S. visitor was yesterday sentenced to one year in prison after she pleaded guilty to possession of 20 rounds of ammunition.
It’s a penalty that Magistrate Ngaio Emanuel imposed in accordance with recent amendments to the Firearms Act which removed fines as an option for punishment.
Shocked at the ruling, the 41-year-old resident of Austin, Texas, immediately fell ill and had to be taken to Mount St. John’s Medical Centre where she remained up to late yesterday afternoon.
On Tuesday, the woman and her family were preparing to depart the country via the V.C. Bird International Airport and as they were being processed by the Airport Security, she was asked to open her suitcase for it to be searched.
When the officer examined one of the pockets inside the suitcase, a box of 9mm ammunition was found. It contained 20 bullets.
The woman reported that she had bought the box of bullets in her country and had left it in the suitcase.
When she arrived in Antigua on June 1, the bullets were in the suitcase, she said, but apparently, no one noticed them.
It was only when the family was leaving that the items were found and she was told that she would be charged since she does not have a licence to carry weapons in Antigua and Barbuda, and no permit to travel with the items.
Martinez’s husband, who was with her when she was arrested, was also at court for the trial. Their two children were not at the hearing.
Michael Archibald represented the woman who was in tears throughout the proceedings at the All Saints Magistrate’s Court.