Murderer who asked to be acquited likely to face tougher sentence after V.I. Supreme Court ruling


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ST. THOMAS - After appealing to the V.I. Supreme Court, a man convicted of firing shots near a school is expected to get more time in prison than he was originally sentenced to serve.

The Supreme Court unexpectedly reversed the sentencing for Cuthbertson Thomas, who was convicted of firing shots outside of Emanuel Benjamin Oliver Elementary School on St. Thomas, though not for the reasons he listed in his appeal.

In his appeal, Thomas asked that the Supreme Court reverse the sentencing so that he could be acquitted of all charges.

The high court instead remanded the case back to the V.I. Superior Court, saying the lower court failed to adequately sentence Thomas because of some confusion about how to sentence him for multiple convictions.

The Superior Court initially sentenced Thomas in October 2011 to 20 years for attempted murder; 15 years for unauthorized possession of a firearm during the commission of an attempted murder; five years for third-degree assault; 15 years for unauthorized possession of a firearm during the commission of a third-degree assault; 20 years for aggravated child abuse; and five years for reckless endangerment. The court also imposed $25,000 in fines and $75 in court costs.

A jury found Thomas guilty of the above charges, alongside his co-defendant Richie Fontaine, in December 2010. Thomas and Fontaine were found guilty on all counts.

Several witnesses identified Thomas and Fontaine during the trial.

Both fired shots at the school on May 6, 2009, with one of the bullets going through a school bus and injuring a 10-year-old child. Several of the bullets also hit another vehicle.

In his appeal, Thomas argued that the V.I. Attorney General's Office had insufficient evidence to prove the case.

However, the Supreme Court concluded in its opinion, released Dec. 3, that Thomas should have been sentenced to additional prison time.

The Superior Court erred in not sentencing Thomas separately for the third-degree assault against the child, wrote the opinion's author, Associate Justice Maria Cabret, in addition to the conviction for aggravated child abuse.

Cabret acknowledged that she could see the Superior Court's line of thinking.

"Notwithstanding the fact that an individual can be charged and convicted of violating multiple provisions of the Virgin Islands Code, that individual may only be punished for one of the offenses arising out of a single act," Cabret wrote, alluding to Section 104 of Title 14 in the V.I. Code.

The Superior Court, then, concluded that Thomas could not be punished separately for child abuse and aggravated child abuse. However, third-degree assault against the child should be a separate matter and should require a separate sentence, according to the Supreme Court's opinion.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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