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American who carried ammunition in the Turks and Caicos Islands receives a 52-week suspended sentence. But the fate of other defendants is still unclear



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The first of several Americans recently charged with ammunition possession in Turks and Caicos received a 52-week suspended sentence and a $6,700 fine on Friday, his lawyer told CNN.

But four other Americans are still awaiting their fate. In recent months, all were arrested and accused of bringing various amounts of ammunition to the 40-island chain southeast of the Bahamas. In the Turks and Caicos Islands, possession of firearms or ammunition carries a minimum sentence of 12 years, although the law allows reduced sentences in “exceptional circumstances,” the local governor said.

Bryan Hagerich of Pennsylvania pleaded guilty to the charge, the Turks and Caicos government said.

On Friday, he received a 52-week sentence that was suspended for a year, meaning he will not face immediate incarceration, said Hagerich’s attorney, Oliver Smith, King’s attorney.

Hagerich will be allowed to leave the British Overseas Territory and return to the United States once he pays the fine, Smith said. If he does not pay the fine, he must serve the full 12-month sentence.

The fine is expected to be paid on Friday, Hagerich’s attorney told CNN.

“He’s happy and relieved,” Smith said of his client. “The sentence, in all its circumstances, is reasonable and fair. And he is relieved and looking forward to paying the fine and returning home as soon as possible.”

After Hagerich’s sentencing, Turks and Caicos Islands Prime Minister Washington Misick said justice was served “as provided by law.”

“As we have said, the Firearms Act includes consideration of exceptional circumstances,” Misick said, “and today’s decision reflects our commitment to judicial independence along with respect for the law. “Residents and visitors can be assured that the Turks and Caicos Islands are dedicated to safety and compassion as we protect the safety and rights of all.”

The other four accused Americans have been released on bail while they await their court dates, Misick’s office said in a statement. One was allowed to return to the United States for medical reasons and the rest remain in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

A US congressional delegation traveled to the islands this week and called for charges to be dropped against five Americans who they said “inadvertently” had ammunition in their luggage.

Hagerich’s sentencing came after U.S. officials expressed disappointment in his attempted intervention.

“Unfortunately, despite our willingness to work with Turks and Caicos officials to bring our constituents home, we were unable to find a path forward,” Republican Sen. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma said in a statement this week.

In addition to Hagerich, two other Americans, Michael Lee Evans and Tyler Wenrich, pleaded guilty to possessing ammunition while traveling in the Turks and Caicos Islands, according to the territory’s government.

Evans was allowed to return to the United States due to a “severe” medical situation, but will be asked to return to Turks and Caicos Islands for his next hearing, Smith said.

A fourth American, Ryan Tyler Watson, will have a hearing Tuesday to determine whether he will plead guilty or go to trial, Smith said.

A fifth American, Sharitta Shinese Grier, was arrested last week and is awaiting trial after posting bail, according to Kimo Tynes, director of communications for the Office of the Prime Minister and Public Policy.

Turks and Caicos Islands: No special treatment should be given to any group

Turks and Caicos Islands Governor Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam said the 12-year mandatory minimum sentence for possession of firearms or ammunition is in place to protect those on the islands, and that judges can use their discretion to impose reduced sentences in “exceptional circumstances.”

But no special treatment should be given to any group, the Turks and Caicos prime minister said.

“The law must be applied impartially,” Misick said.

And American citizens are not being targeted, Turks and Caicos officials said. Of the 195 people convicted of gun crimes in the past six years, only seven were U.S. citizens, Misick said Thursday. No US citizen has received the 12-year sentence to date.

Although the territory does not manufacture firearms or ammunition, the number of firearms arriving on the islands has increased, Misick said. On the other hand, the United States has more weapons than people.

Now, bringing firearms or ammunition into the Turks and Caicos Islands without prior permission from the police is “strictly prohibited.”

While the United States and Turks and Caicos collaborate in the fight against narcotics, terrorism and money laundering, “our laws and processes are not consistent,” Misick said.

“We are a separate sovereignty. “We respect the laws of the United States and will never think of interfering in its operation.”

But at least one opposition appointee, Alvin Garland, expressed concern about the detentions of American citizens.

Garland said the islands’ governor is right not to interfere with ongoing court cases to comply with the government’s separation of powers, but added that he believes most, if not all, cases involving American tourists will fall into “exceptional circumstances”. category” and sentences could be shorter than the mandatory minimum of 12 years.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Carlos Suarez, Maija Ehlinger, Hira Humayun, Lauren Mascarenhas and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled the surname of the governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam.

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