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Apr 15, 2016

Officer’s Murder Charge Downgraded to Manslaughter

Back in June 2015, police charged two officers on duty at the Caye Caulker police station with the murder of eighteen-year-old Hilberto Sotz who was killed while in police custody.  Today, after ten months on remand, in a directive the DPP’s office instructed that the charge of murder be downgraded to manslaughter against police officers Hallett King and Leonard Nunez due to lack of evidence to substantiate the charge of murder. On other occasions, the Chief Magistrate, Anne Marie Smith, questioned the delay in providing disclosure. The prosecutor, Corporal Christopher Smith had indicated that in light of new evidence, the case file was forwarded back to the D.P.P. for directives so disclosure could not be provided. Today, he sought more time but the Chief Magistrate ordered that the men be provided with disclosure by three this afternoon. Attorney for King, Herbert Panton then asked the court to grant bail to King and Nunez. But before that was considered, the Chief Magistrate was concerned about the circumstances under which Sotz met his death.  When it was cleared up that he died due to an alleged beating, the cops were granted bail of two thousand dollars each but they have to surrender their passports and report to the police station once a week.  Both cannot apply for any new travelling documents and in the case of Nunez, he must first notify the court when he relocates to a new address. The death of the teenager prompted riots in the island and the cops were charged. Sotz was badly beaten and by the time he was taken to the clinic, he had expired.


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