Cooperation between the French and Dutch sides of St. Maarten has finally resulted in the arrest of the main suspect in the brutal anti-gay attack on Dick Jefferson, Ryan Smith, and their friends more than two months ago. “Duracell” turned himself in after supposedly fleeing the island for neighboring Guadaloupe.
I received an email yesterday from Jefferson (which I share below) talking about the arrests and the effect the case has had on other investigations on St. Maarten. The slow but steady progress will have its conclusion in the coming months when a Dutch judge presides over Duracell’s trial.
From Dick Jefferson:
Duracell is back on St. Maarten/St. Martin! Dutch officials have him locked up and are interrogating him.
Two weeks after officials revealed that the 21-year-old thug Duracell had escaped the island, Netherland Antilles Chief Prosecutor Taco Stein announced today (June 13) that Duracell surrendered, and will face charges resulting from his “barbaric” attack on my friends and me.
But, the convicted felon—whose previous weapon of choice was a machete–brought along an attorney and denied that he cracked my head with a tire wrench before he and his buddies swarmed and crushed Ryan Smith’s skull—resulting in even more severe damage. While I have returned to work, Ryan continues his rehabilitation.
Duracell’s surrender has been a slow, but sure, victory for cooperation between the Dutch and the French sides of the island. Since the attack on the Dutch side, it was well known that the culprits drove to the safe haven of the French side. It took weeks for Stein to convince his French counterparts to accept the fact their citizens were out to kill that night. The pack remained on the loose–capable of attacking again–because the French then demanded that all documents be translated from Dutch.
Despite the seemingly endless delay in our case, the cooperation that started there is already paying off in the investigation of the brutal murder last week of Angelique Chauvire. Last seen on the French side, her mutilated body was discovered near a Dutch beach. In her case, the two sides which speak the language of commerce daily, did not delay to translate. I hope leaders on both sides of this unique two nation island formalize this working relationship and its value in preventing the Duracells of the future from terrorizing one side only to retreat to the sovereign sanctuary of the other.
The surrender–and the arrest of another assailant last Friday—is also a big victory for the people of St. Maarten/St. Martin. Since the bashing, I have said that police departments are only as successful as the people they serve. I urged those who knew those that tried to kill my friends for their innocent display of affection–and me for stumbling into the conflict–had a duty to either inform police, or to convince the assailants that the only way to save the island’s tourism economy was to face justice. I appreciate all those who braved to do the right thing.
In the end, the French decision to prosecute may have prompted Duracell. Despite his denial, he has chosen to possibly spend up to 16 years in St. Maarten’s Pointe Blanche prison rather than endure a possible shorter sentence in the French dungeon on neighboring Guadeloupe. Or maybe his family and friends wanted to be closer to him than the facility that is reputed to rival the conditions made famous by the book, and movie, Papillion.
With Duracell’s surrender, justice will soon be decided under the Dutch legal system by a single judge. It will be a true test of how the island treats crimes against tourists who are gay.
One newspaper on St. Maarten, TODAY, glorified our beating. The other, THE HERALD, called the attack “a despicable and barbaric act,” but then suggested “if the culprits felt the need to prove their manhood . . . they at least could have had the guts to fight them fairly, with their bare hands.”
I hope that whichever judge gets this case does not hold a similar opinion that violence is ever justified–with a speeding car, a rusty tire wrench, or even bare fists.
While Duracell and his posse may have committed the most violent crime, St. Maarten Chief Police Commissioner Derrick Holliday has committed the most serious one. The people of St. Maarten, and the millions of tourists the island invites each year, are the victims of his contempt.
He has so far refused to comply with an order by his Government’s top leaders to explain why his department repeatedly denied an attack took place or even take my statement before I was airlifted to the safety of Miami.
Today, he continues that silence. His contempt is so loud now, the people of St. Maarten should demand answers before his screech reverberates across the world, and silences the brand new airport that would welcome visitors to the so-called Friendly Island.
Jefferson has worked aggressively and persistently, pressuring officials on this case. His hard work appears to have paid off, and if Duracell receives the proper sentence, gays and lesbians will have won an important victory in this homophobic region of the world.
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