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Oct 16, 2020

6 More Escaped Prisoners are Arraigned, including Alleged Mastermind Joel Sierra

Turning to the prison break; a total of fourteen escapees have been recaptured; one was killed and thirteen others, between Thursday and today, were arraigned for escape charges. While nine have pleaded guilty to the charge and sentenced to one year in prison, four others are saying that they are innocent and were simply acting under duress. Around ten o’clock today, six escapees, including alleged mastermind behind the jailbreak, Joel Sierra, were transported to the Belize City Magistrate’s Court by personnel from the Gang Suppression Unit. A News Five crew was once again stationed outside the courtroom and Duane Moody files this report.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Six more escaped prisoners, who were captured over the last two days, were hauled before the court this morning and arraigned before Senior Magistrate Aretha Ford. The defendants include Deon White, Philip Bowen, Victor Galeano, Darren Vasquez, Deandre Guiffarro and alleged mastermind behind Monday’s jailbreak, Joel Sierra. With the exception of Sierra and Galeano, all others pleaded guilty to the charge of escape and were given a one-year prison sentence. Sierra was also slapped with a charge of aggravated assault against a prison officer, for which he also pleaded not guilty. He and Galeano are to reappear in the Magistrate’s Court on December sixteenth.


Ronell Gonzalez

Ronell Gonzalez, Attorney for Joel Sierra

“Mister Sierra was pleaded before the magistrate for two offenses. He was charged with the offense of escape from prison and he was also charged with the offense of aggravated assault and this is allegedly against one of the prison officers. He pled not guilty to both offenses.”


Joel Sierra was on remand for a charge of kept firearm without a gun license, for which he was soon to become eligible for bail.


Joel Sierra

Ronell Gonzalez

“Very similar to the client that I represented yesterday, he has not accepted any fault or any culpability on behalf of this charge. He is saying that there was some kind of as well duress that was on him to act. I should mention that Mister Joel Sierra, contrary to a lot of talking that is being heard, was on remand at the time of the escape for a kept firearm offense and therefore he was a remanded prisoner. He had been in prison; he is saying for about three months now and under the law he was supposed to serve ninety days before he was eligible for bail in the magistrate’s court level. So I am of the opinion that on his next visit to court, he would have been granted bail or perhaps offered bail. It is puzzling to me why a person who is about to get bail anytime soon would go and plot an entire escape with some twenty plus prisoners. It is very puzzling to me.”


Deon White was incarcerated for a fatal shooting earlier this year. He pleaded guilty to escape. His mother, Stephanie Edwards stood outside the court for a glimpse of her son as he was escorted by GSU personnel into the waiting prison van, which took them to the central prison from where they escaped four days ago.


Stephanie Edwards

Stephanie Edwards, Mother of Deon White

“My son innocent ina everything. They just accuse my son wrongfully; that’s why my son deh dah jail. And like I say, the prisoners, everybody who escaped; that dah wah an inside job weh happen cause nobody can’t come out of the jail just like that.”


But back to Sierra who has been branded as one of the alleged masterminds in the biggest prison break.


Ronell Gonzalez

“Mister Sierra as you all have been hearing for a while now has been branded as one of those that is the mastermind behind this entire escape. Upon speaking to my client today, I would want to say that a lot of new information has come to light. Of course, I will hold them confidential at this time. But I can say that it is in essence a greater plot, a bigger plot than just meets the ear. We heard a lot of talk about the escape in general, but I’d like to say there is deeper information as it is to that particular escape.”


While attorney Ronell Gonzalez has chosen not to disclose the confidential information, Prime Minister Dean Barrow today also said that the details of what transpired doesn’t seem to be adding up. As you know, a prison guard has narrated that he was held hostage by prisoners for hours before they escaped.


Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“The prison is privatized and so it is not run by government. I think one of the perils of office – you are in government, anything happens, the government gets blamed. That apart, even though the prison is privatized, when there is a break and clearly you heard Commissioner Williams say that he is going to investigate thoroughly how it happened because it is my sense that it is his feeling that lots of portions of that narrative as to how the escape occurred don’t quite add up.”


As has been reported, there have been allegations of collusion by prison guards for which an internal investigation has been launched.


Ronell Gonzalez

“The police department – I have heard the commissioner mentioned that an internal investigation in regards to this escape is being launched so hopefully there will be more information that is unearthed than just what is being heard at this time.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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