By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A FORMER Scotiabank loans officer who admitted his involvement in the theft of $1.3 million from the bank appeared in Supreme Court yesterday expecting to be sentenced to a year in prison in accordance with his plea bargain agreement.
Byron Roberts’ expectations were challenged by the Crown prosecutor, who claimed the convict did not fulfil his part of the bargain with regard to the case against his two co-accused.
But Justice Indra Charles noted that the Crown decided to enter into a plea agreement with the defendant, without putting into writing what it wanted from Roberts in return.
The judge said she was conflicted between the discretion granted to her in law, and the affect on public opinion should the court be seen to disregard a signed plea agreement.
She reserved her sentencing of the 40-year-old to consider the request of the lead prosecutor Ambrose Armbrister, who asked the judge disregard the agreement.
Roberts was charged along with Natasha Evans and Tremell Taylor with stealing by reason of employment from the bank’s Andros branch between April and June 2008.
At the time, Roberts was a loans officer while Taylor was a teller and Evans was the assistant branch manager.
All three denied the charge when they were arraigned in the lower court, before the matter was forwarded to the Supreme Court for trial.
The trial started on February 11 and on Monday, February 18, Roberts changed his plea to guilty.
On Friday, February 22, Justice Charles said she wished to defer sentencing to next week after the trial was completed.
She also told Roberts’ attorney Jeffrey Lloyd that she wanted to give him more time to prepare his plea in mitigation.
The judge said that whatever sentence is imposed Roberts will begin from the date of his remand, February 22.
In yesterday’s proceedings, Mr Lloyd made his plea in mitigation and expressed that the single parent of three children was “deeply remorseful” for the crimes he committed and his “egregious” breach of the public’s trust as a result of his actions.
“He’s also deeply sorry for causing great embarrassment to his family, his colleagues and the wider banking community,” Mr Lloyd said.
Mr Lloyd further said that his client has offered to assist Scotia Bank with getting back the money lost because of his actions.
He said this was his client’s first brush with the law and prior to his conviction, was a pillar in the community and an exemplary worker at the bank where he was being considered for a manager position.
Mr Lloyd asked the court to note the plea agreement made on February 18, where no sentence greater than 12 months would be imposed on his client for the five counts of stealing by reason of employment he faced.
He added that as per the agreement, the sentences were to run concurrently.
Mr Armbrister, in response to the submission on the plea agreement, argued that Roberts did not fulfil the requirements he had agreed to.
The judge interrupted him and noted that he didn’t check the statement from Roberts beforehand to see if his knowledge was of any use to the prosecution’s case before signing the document.
“Should you not have put that in writing?” the judge asked, adding that Roberts “is expecting the court of law not to deviate from a plea agreement”.
Mr Armbrister said that the Crown signed the plea agreement in “good faith” based on the requirements agreed to in a chamber hearing with Roberts and Mr Lloyd.
The prosecutor noted that the law provides for the judge to use her discretion in the circumstances.
However, Justice Charles told the prosecutor that the Crown “took away the powers of the court with that plea agreement” and was now asking that it be disregarded.
She said she did not like the message this would send to the public.
Mr Lloyd noted that neither he or his client had mislead anyone.
He said that he had meetings with both representatives from the bank and the Attorney General’s office about his client assisting them by providing all he knew.
He argued that his client had done that.
Justice Charles noted the likelihood of the matter being appealed despite what decision she makes.
She said perhaps the higher court may be able to rule on how the lower courts should proceed in such situations.
Nevertheless, she adjourned sentencing to March 11, when she said a written ruling would be provided.