MADE IN JAMAICA
Convict claims upbringing led to violent, criminal behaviour in US
A Jamaican man who was part of a crew that staged a string of armed robberies in the United States (US), then blamed his conduct on the violent culture in his homeland, has been sent to prison for 10 years. Alex Josephs, 23, was sentenced in a...
A Jamaican man who was part of a crew that staged a string of armed robberies in the United States (US), then blamed his conduct on the violent culture in his homeland, has been sent to prison for 10 years.
Alex Josephs, 23, was sentenced in a Connecticut federal court yesterday, almost six months after he pleaded guilty to one count each of Hobbs Act robbery and brandishing a gun during and in relation to a violent crime, the office of the US Attorney for the District of Connecticut disclosed.
Josephs was also ordered to pay restitution totalling US$298,073, the value of the losses from three of the 2021 robberies at stores operated by telecoms giant AT&T in the Connecticut towns of Newington, Enfield and Canton.
Shaquille Raymond, another Jamaican who was a member of the violent street crew, was given a six-year prison sentence on March 29 last year for his role in the robberies after he pleaded guilty to similar charges.
He was ordered to pay US$298,073 in restitution.
Both men face deportation after completing their sentence.
Citing video and other evidence in their possession, prosecutors painted Josephs as a brutal enforcer during the robbery spree.
“Mr Josephs, along with co-defendant Ronaldo Smith, showed a particularly disturbing level of violence by pistol-whipping victims. Mr Josephs sent at least one of his victims to the hospital,” they wrote in court filings.
“They displayed an unusual level of cruelty and ugliness toward the victims. Mr Josephs gave them no chance. He and Mr Smith went straight to violent assaults.”
Smith has already pleaded guilty for his role in the robberies and is awaiting sentencing.
Josephs’ attorneys asked US District Judge Stefan R. Underhill to impose a five-year prison sentence, citing Jamaica’s violent political history and the impact they claimed it had on him as a child growing up in St Ann.
“Its violent legacy moulded the behavioural patterns of this intelligent, courageous, and caring young man so that he would develop the skill – though never the enthusiasm – to commit the robberies … of which he stands convicted,” the attorneys claimed in a document submitted to the court.
Josephs claimed he grew up in a “corrugated roof shack” with a mother who had no visible means of income and an absent father.
According to his account, by the age of nine, when his sister was born, he was on his own and was stabbed in the back and right hand with an ice pick while working on a construction site at 12 years old.
A year later, Josephs claimed he witnessed the slaying of a friend through gang violence and said he was pistol-whipped during a home invasion robbery.
Through his father, Josephs migrated to the US in 2018.
“Mr Josephs has been around violence his entire life. He had been existing in survival mode since he was nine years old,” read a section of the document filed in court, which was shared with The Gleaner.
“Once he saw life in America, he only wanted that normal American life: a job, a home, a good relationship. But that garrison-honed survival instinct ingrained in him since childhood is difficult simply to shut down, and it is what influenced him to cause such suffering to others.”
But prosecutors rubbished the assertions, saying the explanations offered for Josephs’ conduct are “somewhat in conflict and neither excuses his conduct”.
“The government questions the defence’s suggestion that violent behaviour is widely accepted in Jamaica, such that Mr Josephs had a diminished sense that what he was doing here was morally repulsive,” they wrote in court filings.
“Prevalence is not the same as acceptance,” prosecutors added, noting that “nothing in the culture described condones armed robbery”.
Starting in January 2021 to June that year, Josephs and his crew stole phones and other accessories valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars during a robbery spree that targeted AT&T stores.
There were two failed robbery attempts in the state of Massachusetts.
The other members of the crew are Deshawn Baugh and Saviana Bourne, 25, an AT&T employee who helped planned the robberies and served as the driver of the getaway car, authorities said.
Baugh is serving a nine-year prison sentence while Bourne has been ordered to serve six and a half years in prison.