Judge likens ex-police officer’s behaviour to a ‘creeping tomcat quietly hunting its prey’ – The Royal Gazette | Bermuda News, Business, Sports, Events, & Community

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Judge likens ex-police officer’s behaviour to a ‘creeping tomcat quietly hunting its prey’

A judge has dismissed a former police officer’s appeal against a sexual assault conviction, likening his behaviour to a “creeping tomcat quietly hunting its prey”.

Jermari Belboda, 27, was found guilty by magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo in 2020 of an assault on a 24-year-old female constable, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

While he argued that the conviction should be overturned, Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams said strong evidence supported the allegation that Belboda sexually touched the victim when he thought she was asleep.

In her ruling, the judge described Belboda as a “creeping tomcat quietly hunting its prey” who later tried to conceal his crime with dishonesty.

Mrs Justice Subair Williams added: “In my judgment, having carefully reviewed and examined all of the evidence called at trial, the Crown’s case was compelling and the magistrate’s finding of guilt is unimpeachable.”

The incident happened in Pembroke in the early hours of December 5, 2018.

The victim told the court that after a night out she had invited Belboda to sleep at the home where she was housesitting, and said he could sleep in the same room as her in a different bed.

The victim said that after several minutes of conversation she fell asleep, but was awoken by the feeling of someone removing her leggings and a light being shone at her.

She told the court that Belboda began to touch her, but she pretended to be asleep to keep him from “escalating”.

The victim said the following morning, Belboda told her that she had taken her own pants off during the night.

She said he added: “Don’t worry, I was a gentleman, I didn’t look.”

The victim said she and a friend later confronted him and covertly recorded the conversation.

In the recording, Belboda said: “I know, I’m not trying to excuse it, I’m not excusing what I did. I was wrong. I was wrong 100 per cent and I felt bad and that’s when I went back, and I just went to sleep.

“I felt bad. I felt terrible. Once I came to my senses I felt terrible.”

Belboda however told the court that he believed the victim was awake and consenting when he began to touch her as “sort of a foreplay move to see how she would react”.

He said: “I was thinking that she had always complained to me that she always had to initiate every sexual act of her boyfriend, so I was just trying to take the lead, take the charge.”

Belboda said when she did not move and he noticed her eyes were closed, he came to believe she had fallen asleep, so he stopped the contact and covered the victim up.

He said he did not recall making any comment to the victim about her pants the morning after the incident and did not attempt to discuss what had happened because he was in a relationship with someone else and felt guilty.

Mr Tokunbo found Belboda guilty after a trial and he was dismissed from his position as a constable, but Belboda launched an appeal before he could be sentenced.

Elizabeth Christopher, Belboda’s lawyer, said Mr Tokunbo had erred in his approach to the credibility of witnesses.

She added: “It’s our respectful submission that the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the appellant did not honestly believe that he had consent and therefore ask that the conviction be overturned.”

Shaunté Simons Fox, for the Crown, however said the evidence was clear that Belboda had no honest belief in consent at any point.

She highlighted a reference that Belboda’s reference to a “foreplay move”, adding: “I think that one line in evidence would show that he did something before she offered up any form of consent.”

The matter is set to be returned to Magistrates’ Court for Belboda to be sentenced.

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.