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Jaron Roberts gets 17 years for gun, drugs and resisting arrest

Jaron Roberts in 2011 as he appears before the courts (File photograph)

A St George’s man caught with a loaded gun during Cup Match victory celebrations in 2021 has been sentenced to 17 years behind bars.

Jaron Roberts, 31, was found guilty last week of possessing a firearm and ammunition and resisting arrest in an incident on July 31, 2021.

He had also admitted to charges of possessing more than 20 grams of cannabis and drug equipment, specifically a scale, before the start of the trial.

Puisne Judge Juan Wolffe said it was “mind-numbing” that Roberts had been convicted of a second firearm-related offence after spending three years behind bars for a series of armed robberies.

“One would have thought that he would have thanked his lucky stars for such an early release from prison and then dedicated his life to redeeming himself to his family and to others within the community by finding a job, spending time with his hobbies and being someone who he, his mother and his father could be proud of,” Mr Justice Wolffe said.

“Instead, he has made the same terrible choices that have afflicted so many of our young men. And for what? To presumably be able to say that they are ‘about that life’ or to show some next guy that he is harder than them.

“It makes absolutely no logical sense. There is only hope that this time around the defendant will reflect on what he has done and upon his release, whenever that may be, to make it his ambition to right his wrongs and maybe steer others away.”

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 that 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.

Cannabis and a scale were found under the bike’s seat.

The court 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 that 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’s behaviour during his arrest indicated that he knew the weapon was there and his explanation that someone else may have stashed it in his bag was irrational.

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

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

The jury found Roberts guilty of all three offences by a unanimous verdict.

Ms Greening told the court that Roberts launched a constitutional complaint regarding the trial and urged the court to delay sentencing until after the complaint is heard.

That application was denied by Mr Justice Wolffe.

Cindy Clarke, the Director of Public Prosecutions, called for a sentence of between 15 and 17 years, arguing that the sentence for the drugs should run consecutively with a sentence of 14 to 16 years for the firearms offences.

Ms Clarke also noted that Roberts was previously sentenced to spend 16 years behind bars for a series of armed robberies that involved an imitation firearm, although that sentence was reduced on appeal to 11 years.

The court heard that he was released after he served about three years of that sentence.

Ms Greening said that the previous offence involved an imitation firearm and the weapon involved in the case before the court was in such poor condition that investigators found it unsafe to be test fired.

She added that there was no evidence that the weapon had been used or caused any harm or damage to anyone.

In the circumstances, she argued that a total sentence of between 12 and 13 years would be reasonable.

Roberts himself maintained his innocence to the firearms charges despite his conviction, stating: “It’s a really messed-up situation to be in where I have to prove my innocence.”

Mr Justice Wolffe said the jury’s fast, unanimous verdict was an indication that they had rejected his defence.

“They surely must have found the defendant’s defence illogical, nonsensical and not worthy of any semblance of belief,” he said.

The judge noted the combination of drugs and firearm offences, along with Roberts’s previous convictions, and sentenced him to 16 years in prison for both the firearm and ammunitions charge.

Mr Justice Wolffe further sentenced Roberts to six months for resisting arrest, stating that the offence was at the lower end of the spectrum, and 12 months for possession of cannabis and the scale.

He ordered the drugs offences to run consecutively to the other charges, resulting in a total sentence of 17 years.

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