By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
RESERVE Sergeant Dwayne Decosta was sentenced to six months in prison yesterday for abducting and assaulting a teenage girl at a police station two years ago.
Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson sentenced the 56-year-old convict to six months behind bars for his actions towards the then-13-year-old girl at the South Beach Police Station in July 2018.
The judge also ordered that Decosta be placed on probation for one year, and that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour.
The sentence was ordered to run from yesterday’s date. However, Decosta’s attorney, Murrio Ducille, successfully requested that his bail be continued while he files the necessary documents to appeal the judge’s decision.
Decosta’s sentence came notwithstanding the judge’s acknowledgment of good character references on his behalf from several notable persons, including former Prime Minister Perry Christie, something she said she was “impressed” with.
The judge also noted that during the trial, Decosta was always a punctual and respectful defendant, and was someone she never “had to look for” whenever his matter was called up for hearing.
However, Justice Grant-Thompson said it “troubled” her that although the teenager did not admit to any sexual misconduct on the reservist’s part, “a father and 56-year-old grown man” took a “young, underage female” who was “legally vulnerable” upstairs in the police station “into a room alone”.
The judge said the girl must have already felt “vulnerable” to be in a police station without a friend or guardian. To compound that by dealing with a “male stranger” who moved her to an “abandoned, restricted area” indicates “some bad judgement”.
“Why take a female child to such an area, for even a minute?” Justice Grant-Thompson asked.
“So it means that the convict may have shown these esteemed persons (Mr Christie and his other character witnesses) one face, and yet in his very uniform, in full sight of the surveillance cameras, practices another face.”
Decosta’s sentencing came roughly five months after a jury unanimously acquitted him of having sex with the girl, but instead convicted him of abducting and assaulting her.
During trial, it was initially alleged that Decosta digitally penetrated the teenager, who is now 14, and made her perform oral sex on him in a room upstairs in the station’s fire services garage.
The allegations emerged from a statement the girl gave to Inspector Altida Bowles in her mother’s presence on the same date of the incident.
However, when the girl gave sworn evidence, she denied telling police about any sexual acts allegedly committed by Decosta, and in fact said the contents of her statement were “incorrect”.
The teenager said although she signed her statement, she did not read it over before she signed, and it was not read back to her by the interviewing officer. She also said she didn’t sign the document truthfully.
The girl also testified in open court that she could not remember if her mother was present during the interview.
And those admissions came after she doubled down on her previous testimony that “nothing” sexual happened between her and Decosta at the South Beach Police Station.
Insp Bowles, who took the statement from the girl and conducted Decosta’s record of interview, subsequently testified that not only did she read the girl’s statement back to her, but the eighth grader signed it “in four places” along with her mother before she herself signed it.
During the trial, the girl confirmed that she told police that while inside the station, an officer wearing navy blue, said to be Decosta, approached her. She initially denied telling police that the officer called her outside, but then told the prosecutor that an officer did in fact call her outside.
The teenager went on to confirm that she told police that Decosta told her to go to the rear of the building, which she said she did. She confirmed that she told police that Decosta followed her to the rear of the building before instructing her to take a flight of stairs. She said she told police that Decosta was behind her the entire time.
Subsequent to the no-case submission stage of the trial, it was revealed that the charge of unlawful sexual intercourse was no longer before the jury, but rather the lesser charges of abduction and assault.
On Mr Ducille’s advice, Decosta elected not to give any evidence to counteract the prosecution’s claims, though he maintained: “I’m innocent of all charges.”
After Decosta was convicted, the prosecution said it was seeking the maximum sentence for both convictions — three years for assault and two years for abduction.
At that time however, Decosta’s attorney questioned the logic behind such a submission given that Decosta was a first-time offender.
For Justice Grant-Thompson however, the deal-breaker was the fact that Decosta’s lack of remorse “leaves the chance that it could happen again”.