Despite pleas for Denise Stanley not to be sent to jail from character witnesses including her children, the woman was jailed this morning for seven months.
Stanley, 37, an entertainment organizer who pleaded guilty to harbouring illegal immigrants [four male exotic dancers out of the United States] was sentenced today by Magistrate Tamia Richards.
The sentence begins from July 23, the date when she was remanded to prison.
Magistrate Richards said she took all the mitigating and aggravating factors produced by the crown into account and the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors.
The maximum sentence for the offence of harbouring illegal immigrants is 12 months in prison or a $1,000.00 fine, or both 12 months in prison and a $1,000.00 fine.
Magistrate Richards during her sentencing said in the sentencing guidelines provided by the crown, there were 16 similar cases between 2009 and 2012 and 3 of those persons received a fine and 13 were custodial sentences between 3-6 months.
During a sentencing hearing held on August 2, Stanley's eldest children pleaded with Magistrate Richards not to send their mother to jail, noting that she is a committed single parent.
During the hearing, Stanley, who did not have a lawyer, called four character witnesses including her eldest children and her mother. Stanley is a single parent with four children ages 5, 6, 18 and 20 years old.
Her daughter, Akeema Stanley, 20, who cried uncontrollably as she watched her mother in the prison dock, told the court that her mother is a hard worker who never depended on anyone for anything. She said her mother worked two jobs at times to take care of her when she was younger and now for her siblings.
"She works really hard, really hard...I know it was a serious offense. I know some day she will have to be punished, but I pray and hope you don't send her to prison; please don't," she pleaded with Magistrate Richards.
Akeema said her five and six year old brother and sister were on vacation in St. Kitts with their grandmother at the time. The young lady, who is employed, said she knows what drove her mother to the act, as she told her that it was very hard. However, Akeema said her mother had need not tell her that since she knows it is hard, but she didn't have to turn to such an act.
"She told me it's hard and she has bills to pay. Well I thought yes it is hard, but you [mother] didn't have to turn to something like that," the daughter told the court.
Stanley's son, Akeem Stanley, 18, said his mother is the sole provider for him and his siblings. "We only have her. Punish her, but not hard, please."
Akeem said he is currently in fourth form and also works at Sol Gas Station.
Stanley's mother, Angela Stanley also spoke on behalf of her daughter and said she is not someone who gets into trouble and she works hard to take care of her children. The mother acknowledged that her daughter did something wrong and if the court decides to fine her, she will assist to pay the fine.
The woman said when she heard the news about her daughter being involved in such an offense, she was shocked.
During the hearing, Senior Crown Counsel Christlyn Benjamin asked Angela Stanley if the court decides to send her daughter to jail, if she would take care of her grandchildren and the woman said yes.
On July 24, the male exotic dancers were reprimanded and discharged for illegally entering the Territory. The men, Asa Ambrister, 37, a native of the Bahamas; and Andre Baker, 37, Reginald Billins, 46 and Alesian Rolle, all natives of the United States pleaded guilty to entering the Territory illegally.
Stanley's friend, Je'Neal Furett, 35 of the USVI was fined $500.00 or 30 days in prison for illegally entering the Territory. She had also pleaded guilty.
During the first court hearing on July 23, the four men claimed that they were led to believe that they were in the Territory legally by the organizers of the shows they were scheduled to perform at this past weekend.
"We came to make a little money, but we were deceived...We were told that we are here legally. I want to apologize to my crew [other three men] since they trusted me...I would never jeopardize my family and life for a little money and come here illegal. I apologize for the disrespect caused to your country," Reginald Billins told the court on July 23.
Billins was among the six persons arrested in what Police termed as an 'entertainment scheme'.
At that hearing, Stanley apologized to the court and Labour Department.
"I sincerely apologize. I ask for your mercy and for some leniency towards me. I have four kids and they depend on me since I am single...I didn't mean any harm," Stanley said on July 23.
At the July 23 hearing, Senior Crown Counsel Benjamin said Stanley is a native of the BVI and resides at Cane Garden Bay.
Benjamin said investigations revealed that the men were expected to perform as exotic dancers in early July 2012 and Stanley made an application to the Labour Department for work permits for the men to come to the BVI to work and perform as exotic dancers.
However, she said the application was denied and the Labour Department duly informed Stanley about their decision.
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
The Prosecutor said investigations revealed that Stanley went ahead and organized the show and various posters were prepared advertising "ladies night out, exotic male review". The shows were to take place at Drakes Point Hotel, formally known as Fort Burt and at The Wedding in Cane Garden Bay.
Benjamin said Stanley made contacts with Billins and told him that permits were granted and everything was in order for the show. She said various arrangements were made for them to travel from Florida to St. Thomas. On Arrival in St. Thomas, they were met by Stanley and Furett, and there arrangements were made for them to travel from Red Hook to Tortola via speed boat.
She told the court that on Friday, they arrived at West End and Stanley directed the captain to sail the boat to Pusser's dock at Frenchman's Cay where they all disembarked. Stanley then took the men's passports and returned it to them at the dock, assuring them that everything was safe. She then checked them into a hotel in Cane Garden Bay.
Benjamin said investigations revealed that they were able to perform the Friday night and as a result, Police went in search of them. They met Alesian Rolle, Andre Baker and Je'Neal Furett in Cane Garden Bay, while they met Stanley, Asa Ambrister and Billins at Stanley's apartment.
Following checks, it was revealed that the defendants' passports had no BVI entry stamp.