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Jury finds man, 31, guilty of firearms offences

Jaron Roberts, pictured before a 2011 court appearance (File photograph)

A St George’s man caught with a loaded gun in his backpack during a Cup Match traffic stop was found guilty of firearm offences yesterday.

Jaron Roberts, 31, had denied possessing a firearm and ammunition, as well as resisting arrest.

However, a Supreme Court jury returned guilty verdicts on all three offences by a unanimous count.

Puisne Judge Juan Wolffe remanded Roberts into custody until he can be sentenced next week, stating that he would likely spend “considerable time” in prison.

During the trial, the court heard that Roberts was stopped by police on the afternoon of July 31, 2021, in the middle of a motorcade held in celebration of Somerset’s Cup Match victory.

While Roberts was initially ticketed for traffic offences, the court heard that officers warned him he would be arrested over a warrant.

He briefly resisted being handcuffed but then began to struggle against the officers after they questioned him about the contents of his backpack.

A search of the bag revealed a blue balaclava and a plastic sandwich container, which contained a firearm loaded with three rounds of ammunition.

The court that heard there was no dispute that a loaded firearm was found in Roberts’s backpack, but he claimed he had no knowledge of the weapon.

The defendant accepted the backpack was his, as well as the sandwich container the firearm was found in, but he said he had no idea how the firearm came to be inside it.

Roberts told the court that before his arrest, he had set the bag down near Clearwater Beach while he did bike tricks.

While no DNA or fingerprint evidence was found on the firearm, prosecutors argued that Roberts behaviour during his arrest indicated he knew the weapon was there.

Cindy Clarke, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said in her closing speech to the jury that Roberts had attempted to break free from officers when they went to search his backpack.

“He knew full well that the firearm was in that sandwich container in that backpack,” she said.

“There is no other reason or explanation for his behaviour. There is no other reasonable explanation other than the possession of that loaded firearm.”

She also argued that Roberts’s suggestion that the gun was stashed in his bag by an unknown person was not logical or rational.

Victoria Greening, counsel for Roberts, argued that there was no evidence to prove her client knew about the firearm.

She said that it was not unusual for someone to become upset when being told they would be arrested for warrants they did not feel were valid, particularly during a holiday weekend.

Ms Greening said that between the lack of forensic evidence to link Roberts to the weapon and a window of opportunity that allowed someone else to stash the firearm in his bag, the jury could not be sure he knew about the gun.

Detective Inspector Jason Smith applauded the unanimous verdict.

“It is unfortunate that on a day where Bermudians were celebrating, enjoying the Cup Match festivities, that a young man was riding around in the caravan of cars and had a loaded firearm,” he said.

“The conviction today is just and it means we have got another firearm off the street and a man has been held accountable for his actions.

“We continue to appeal to the public to provide us with information that can lead to the recovery of firearms so we can continue in our quest to make Bermuda a safer place.”

Roberts was previously jailed for a 2011 series of robberies that involved an imitation firearm.

He and another accomplice allegedly targeted non-Bermudians in three parishes on the evening of March 14 that year, threatening them with the fake weapon.

The court heard that Roberts had acted alone in snatching a bag from a tourist that day but later set out with an unnamed accomplice to commit further offences using an imitation hand gun.

Over the course of two hours, the pair accosted seven people, making threats and stealing several items.

One victim said he had been struck in the face with the imitation firearm, another said they were knocked off their bike and a third said he was punched in the face after the robbers found he did not have anything to take.

Roberts initially denied taking part in the attacks but later confessed to police.

He told the court he had been led astray by “so-called friends” after he grew frustrated with his motocross biking career.

Roberts was initially sentenced to 16 years behind bars for the string of offences. However, that sentence was cut to 11 years on appeal.

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