Judge asked to deny bail to murder suspect

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ST. THOMAS - A V.I. Superior Court judge on Thursday held off on deciding whether to imprison 22-year-old murder suspect Giraldy Jean Simon without bond until his trial.

The detention hearing Thursday happened in two stages that were split by Judge James Carroll III viewing in chambers a video-recorded statement in which Simon, according to police and prosecutors, admitted to shooting Sonny Rodriguez, 41, on Crystal Gade on Sunday evening.

The affidavit supporting a warrant for Simon's arrest remains under seal.

Assistant Attorney General Sigrid Tejo-Sprotte attempted to convince the judge that the government has "clear and convincing evidence" that there is "no one or combined conditions" that would reasonably assure the safety of the community or that Simon would show up for trial were he to be released on bail.

To support her argument, Tejo-Sprotte questioned V.I. Police Detective Jose Allen, the case agent.

Allen testified that police found Rodriguez lying on his back with several gunshot wounds about 8 p.m. Sunday in a parking lot roughly across the street from the former V.I. Election System office on Crystal Gade. Officers recovered at least two spent 9 mm rounds and one live round, but Allen said he was unsure whether Rodriguez was carrying a firearm.

The detective said he later identified one person who had witnessed an altercation between Rodriguez and Simon outside of El Consulado Bar.

According to the witness, Rodriguez approached the defendant and began punching him. Allen said he did not ask Simon why Rodriguez may have started punching him, but Simon told him Rodriguez punched him seven times.

Simon then went into the bar and got a handgun. By the time Simon went back outside, Rodriguez had made his way to Crystal Gade, according to Allen.

The witness and "two local males" pursued Rodriguez, but he had disappeared from sight, Allen said. At that point, the witness saw a red Volkswagen Jetta that he recognized as Rodriguez's car and "started to vandalize the victim's vehicle," Allen said.

At that point that the witness heard gunshots, according to Allen.

Allen and other officers arrested Simon the next morning aboard the 8:45 a.m. ferry bound for Tortola, the detective said.

"I told him, 'Just be truthful,' " Allen testified.

The suspect consented to give a statement to officers, a recording of which was submitted for the judge to review. Allen testified that Simon admitted in the video to shooting Rodriguez.

Allen further testified that Simon originally is from Haiti, had been on St. Thomas for about two years and his only family on the island is his father.

Under questioning from Simon's defense attorney, Julie Smith Todman, Allen said Simon also told police that Rodriguez, after punching him, had threatened to go get a gun and shoot Simon. Simon also said he did not retaliate after he was attacked, according to Allen.

After Carroll viewed the video, Tejo-Sprotte argued that Simon should be detained without bail because his actions showed "willful premeditation." She said Simon ran away from the initial altercation with Rodriguez, then sought out the victim over the course of about 10 minutes to shoot him.

Todman countered that her client was not the aggressor and was only acting in response to Rodriguez's threat to harm Simon and his family. She described it as "a kill or be killed situation."

Carroll reserved his ruling at the end of the hearing, though he did say that 10 minutes is "clearly enough time to decide not to shoot someone."

Any order of detention denying a defendant bail must be accompanied by a written finding of fact and the reasons for its entry, according to the law.

- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email lmattei@dailynews.vi.

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