PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten – The Court in First Instance sentenced police officer Michelangelo Leonard Rupert Sirvania yesterday to a 3-month conditional prison sentence with 2 years of probation and 180 hours of community service. The court found Sirvania guilty of defrauding Insel Air in 2012 and of using excessive violence against a handcuffed man in 2011.
On May 18, 20102, Sirvania paid tickets for people from the Dominican Republic with a $950 check, while there was no money in his account. On May 24, he paid tickets for another seven persons from the Dominican Republic with a $2,450 check – and again there was no money in the account. Insel Air found out that the checks were no good on June 5.
On December 22, 2011, Sirvania knocked out Stuart Martin Williams in the parking garage in Maho, shortly after colleagues had arrested and handcuffed the man. The video shown during the trial on June 18, showed how Sirvania gave the recalcitrant arrestee a hook that sent him straight to the ground.
After that incident, the police force initiated a dismissal procedure against the police officer.
The court concludes in its ruling that Sirvania committed fraud when he paid Insel Air with checks of which he knew they were no good. He put a future date on the checks and asked the airline not to cash them before that date while he knew the account was in the red.
The court did not fall for the defendant’s argument that he expected to make enough money from a party in Curacao on May 26 and 27, 2012 and that he would have enough money in the account to pay for the tickets.
“With his actions the defendant wanted to put the financial risk on Insel Air. By realizing those risks he knew that he favored himself by having tickets at his disposal for which no payment was made.”
Sirvania’s attorney Geert Hatzmann said at the trial that his client wanted to prevent an escalation of the situation in Maho in 2011, when he knocked Williams out. The situation was explosive, shortly before shots had been fired in the Tantra nightclub and the four officers on the scene were outnumbered by an angry and volatile mob.
The court did not accept Sirvania’s version of the events. It found no evidence of threats Williams allegedly made, and it did not find evidence that there was a large group of men out for a confrontation.
Other officers have declared that only one man was shouting at the police – and he was arrested for it. Spectators came towards the place where Williams was arrested, but they were kept at a distance by another police officer. “I remember there were a lot of people arguing. I don’t remember any threats being issued,” one of the officers declared.
Based on these circumstances the court found no grounds for self-defense that could have justified Sirvania’s actions.
The court states in its ruling that the defendant used unnecessary violence against a handcuffed and therefore powerless man. “In doing so, the defendant damaged the trust in the police force and the trust in the constitutional state,” the ruling states. Sirvania should have led by example, the court ruling states, because he was the highest ranking officer on the scene.
The court refrained from handing down an unconditional prison sentence because the arrestee did not sustain serious injuries and because the incident happened so long ago.