09.06.2017

A homeless person sentenced to 4 months in prison

He was prosecuted for many acts, including violence, outrage, and theft.

“A period of incarceration to allow him to leave this situation, put things in perspective and prepare for his plans in the mainland” is the sentence the criminal court pronounced Wednesday morning against JPH, a young homeless person of 27 years old who committed several misdemeanors in the span of two weeks in Marigot.

JPH was presented Wednesday morning in an immediate appearance before the court of Saint-Martin for having committed several offenses in the span of two weeks. He was sentenced to eight months in prison, four of which are suspended with probation for eighteen months, including the obligation to receive treatment and find employment. A detention warrant was also issued against him.

It had been a year since JPH, a native of the island was wandering about in Marigot. "Since my return to Saint-Martin, he says to the court. Before I was in Guadeloupe where I did my military service, but then I left because I was stabbed.”

It was JPH, who, for a time, squatted on the terrace of an old restaurant on the waterfront before installing his "stand" at the entrance to the royal marina. Without a home and without work, JPH occupies his days recovering objects in the garbage to make new ones. “One day I found the trick for sprucing up toilets, I took the pot, it was like a vase and then I made a lamp with it ... it had a certain style," he says. "Making stuff is my way of expressing myself," says JPH. "You will not believe me, but one day I found seven grams of gold in the trash," he confesses to the judges. JPH also collects items to resell them. One day he said he had found kitchen utensils that he bought from the owner of a restaurant opposite the police station in Marigot; an owner he used to visit regularly.
 But one day, at the end of May, he was not there, but his wife was behind the counter.

“I asked her for a beer, I gave her 50 euro cents while telling her that I would pay [her husband] but she did not want to serve me and threw my 50 cents”, JPH recalls.  “Come back when he is here” she responded.  “She threw the 50 cents!” says JPH who admits the behavior of the woman he assaulted verbally and then physically really upset him. He utters death threats:  “If I had a knife, I would have killed you”.

Seeing the scene, a client tried to defend her and in the process, his t-shirt was torn.  Then the woman called the local police; an agent succeeded in calming down JPH who was therefore arrested by the gendarmes.

A few days earlier, JPH was irritated by another employee from a bakery on the waterfront. He explains that she usually puts a bag of food for him and he shared with other homeless people, but on that day, there was no bag.  He got angry, tried to turn the surveillance camera and eventually stole the electronic scale on the counter.  “It was to piss her off”, he confesses to the court.

Some days ago, in early June, JPH was arrested by the gendarmes because he assaulted a security guard on the royal marina. That night, the guard told him he was not allowed to be inside the marina, which JPH did not like. Some minutes later, the two men meet face to face and JPH violently lost his temper.  He threw stones at the guard.  He defends himself by saying that the guard’s dog bit him.  He was put under control by three gendarmes.

For all these acts, as well as for rebellion and outrages against the gendarmes, he was prosecuted by the public prosecutor. He also appeared for earlier events.
 Last year, he robbed his neighbor on account that the neighbor hit on his girlfriend.

At the hearing this morning, JPH was nervous.  He did not stop interrupting the magistrates but apologized each time.  He admitted to taking crack "in his spare time”.  For the Deputy Prosecutor Yves Paillard, “we must put a stop to this downward spiral”.  “The homeless are a real problem in Saint-Martin, there is no place to welcome them at night and provide them with a hot meal in the evening. (...)  A kind of mutual assistance has been established among the population, the store owners give them food. Homelessness is not a crime but, in return, you must not disturb people” Yves Paillard declared.

For his defense, JPH claimed to have a plan to join his girlfriend in the mainland, who he met during his military service in Guadeloupe.  The couple has a one-year-old girl.  He apologized for his behavior and asked for "the opportunity to be with his family". When the court issued a warrant of arrest, JPH replied, "It's cool."

Six of the seven victims joined as plaintiffs and claimed a euro for damages and interest.

Estelle Gasnet

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