Judge, attorney spar over bail in brutal assault case
Published: September 20, 2012
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ST. CROIX - Two men accused of severely beating a man before shooting him in the head in Frederiksted earlier this month made their initial court appearances Wednesday morning.
During a hearing that became testy at moments, Anwar Christopher, 23, of Good Hope Town Houses, and Ivan James, 28, of Estate La Grange, appeared before Magistrate Judge Jessica Gallivan and were advised of their rights. They have been charged with attempted murder, first-degree assault, third-degree assault, unauthorized possession of a firearm, possession of ammunition, carrying a dangerous weapon during the commission of a crime of violence and failure to report a firearm brought into the territory in connection to an assault on another man on Sept. 2.
Gallivan advised the men that if they were to be tried and convicted on the charges against them they could face 80 years in prison.
According to court documents filed by V.I. Police Det. Jeffrey Nesbitt, two witnesses told police that around 9 p.m. Sept. 2, the 26-year-old victim intervened in a dispute in which a man was beating up a woman in a car near Dorsh Beach. The witnesses told police that the man yelled at the man to stop and then left.
According to the police report, the victim went to the Apothecary Hall grocery store on Queen Street, where he had a drink with friends. While he was there, the man who is accused of beating the woman approached him and told him he needs to mind his business and then hit him in the face.
The man struck back and a fight ensued, according to the witnesses.
Nesbit said in his report that James and Christopher got involved in the fight and they brutally beat and kicked the man. Witnesses said the beating continued for several minutes and the three men dragged the victim across the street where they continued to beat and kick him in a stairwell.
The report states that the man was beaten to the point that he could not stand up and the men dragged him to another area behind an sport utility vehicle when they heard a single shot and the three men ran from the area.
Witnesses were able to identify James and Christopher and picked them out in a photo lineup according to Nesbitt, the third man is still being sought by police.
The victim was treated by a team of doctors at Luis Hospital for a lateral gunshot wound to his head, shattered nose, fractured face, sinus damage and skull fracture. Ultimately, he was airlifted from the territory for additional treatment for his injuries.
Nesbitt said based on information from witnesses, police were able to recover a gun from James, that he said was not his, but was taken from the victim as he tried to break up the fight. Police said the gun was still covered in blood.
Police said they also recovered some bloody clothing, a hat, one dreadlock, a cellular phone, bullet casing, one live round, a beer bottle and $4.
During the advise-of-rights hearing, Public Defender Nesha Hendrickson made a motion seeking Christopher's release on bail.
She asked the court to allow him released to a third-party after posting 10 percent of the bail. Assistant Attorney General Angela Polk had no objection to the conditions, but Gallivan said she would not allow Christopher released without being on 24-hour house arrest with the use of an electronic monitoring device. "These are certainly serious allegations and the penalties are also serious," he said. "We need conditions in place to protect the community and ensure his appearance at future court proceedings."
Attorney Eszart Wynter, representing James, challenged the magistrate's ruling as the same would apply to his client, and said he would be opposed to having those same conditions apply to his client without just cause.
"If the people believe that he is a risk and a danger they should have filed the appropriate documents," Wynter said. "I want to call witnesses to testify to his character and give a different version of the incident."
Wynter spoke passionately about his client's good character, adding that the prosecution has proved nothing of him being a threat. He said he had submitted a motion in support of the release, which the magistrate said she had not read.
Wynter spoke in an elevated tone, saying that jail is no place for his client because people get stabbed down there. "I don't believe you will impose conditions without reading my motion," he said. "You could take a recess and read it, I don't mind being here all day."
Gallivan said she had additional items on her calendar for the day including two bench trials, so she would finish her calendar and recess court until today at 9 a.m when she would hear the release motion from Wynter.
"You are being vindictive now," Wynter told the magistrate.
"And you are way out of line at this point," Gallivan warned. "I will see you and your client tomorrow morning."
James and Christopher were led away from the courtroom by deputy marshals.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email email@example.com.