Commissioner Novelle E. Francis Jr., on Friday [Aug 6], decried the “slap on the wrist” given to Jamal Wesselhoft in his sentencing Thursday by Judge Michael Dunstan.
“This is unacceptable, Commissioner Francis said. “At a time when we are trying to send a strong message of zero tolerance to the gun toting criminals, the courts are not applying a sentence that demonstrates there are consequences to their actions.”
Wesselholf was being sentenced for his involvement in a high speed chase that occurred on New Year’s Day on St. Thomas. A concerned citizen called police and reported that a man was walking around Paul M. Pearson’s Gardens with a machine gun. Police arrived on the scene when Wesselhoft was getting into his car. The chase ended on Flag Hill Road and police confiscated an AK-47, a .40 caliber handgun, a 30 round loaded magazine along with cocaine and marijuana which were found on Wesselhoft and in the car he was driving.
“For these crimes Judge Dunston grants Wesselhoft less than two years probation with credit for time served? This is wrong on so many levels,” Francis said.
Commissioner Francis said slaps on the wrists like these erode the morale of the officers who have to see these criminals out on the streets again.
“At one point officers have to question: what is the use of arresting them? And what about the citizen who called the police and reported Wesselhoft with the gun? That person took a risk and believed in the system, and justice has not been served.”
“And more importantly,” Francis said, “these light sentences embolden the criminals to commit more crimes when the word travels on the streets that another brazen criminal act has been virtually ignored by our criminal justice system.”
“This sentence has left a sour taste in the mouth of the law enforcement community. At the same time the criminals are enjoying a banner day. There is something seriously wrong with this picture,” Commissioner Francis concluded.