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Back Street Man Who Shoots Attacker Wielding A Knife Gets No Time In Prison

07 - JaHeil Francis CROP

OFF SCOT-FREE: Ja’Heil Francis

CHARLOTTE AMALIE – Ja’Heil Francis was on Monday sentenced to a two-year suspended sentence for having pleaded guilty to a gun crime in connection with a shooting death that occurred earlier this year.

Francis, 20, accepted the terms of an amended plea agreement offered by Attorney General Claude Earl Walker and pleaded guilty to a single charge of failure to register a licensed firearm. He faced two charges – unauthorized possession of a firearm with altered identification marks and unauthorized possession of a firearm stemming from a Feb. 18 incident.

According to an affidavit filed by Det. Nigel James detailing the incident that led to Francis’ arrest, police traveled to Wimelskaft Gade (Back Street) to respond to reports of a gunshot victim. When they got to the area, police found Randolph Rabsatt lying face up with gunshot wounds about his body; he was pronounced dead at the scene. A knife was recovered near the body.

Police interviewed an eyewitness who said that Francis and Rabsatt were embroiled an argument, Rabsatt pulled out a knife and swung it at Francis, according to Det. James. Rabsatt pursued Francis with the knife, Francis pulled out a gun and shot Rabsatt, discharging about five to seven shots, then left the area, according to James.

Francis, who had traveled to Schneider hospital for treatment of two knife wounds on his neck, was later apprehended at the medical institution and arrested on the two gun charges.

In the plea deal offered by AG Walker, according to Assistant Attorney General Eugene James Connor, Jr., who outlined the terms during his allocution, in exchange for his pleading guilty to a single count of failure to register a licensed firearm, Francis will be sentenced under the conditions of Title 5 V.I.C. 3712 – probation for youthful offenders.

Francis’ attorney, Michael Joseph, told the court that his client acted in self-defense.

“If he didn’t have the gun, he would have been a dead man,” Joseph said.

Francis addressed the court at his hearing and repeatedly told the court he was sorry about what had happened.

“I would like people to have empathy more than sympathy,” Francis said. “I’m really sorry it happened, but that was the only way of securing my life.”

In handing down his punishment, V.I. Superior Court Judge James Carroll III upheld the recommendations of the plea agreement, but said that this case shows the danger of firearm possession.

Carroll then sentenced Francis to the guidelines of Title 5 V.I.C. 3712, pointing out that at the time of the attack, he was 19, he has no prior record, he is a suitable candidate for rehabilitation, he earned his GED and he has a scholarship from Woodward Academy.

Under the guidelines of Title 5 V.I.C. 3712, Francis was sentenced to two years and one month with all suspended and placed on a probation for a period of two years.

Judge Carroll also ordered Francis to continue his education, continue looking for employment, to pay a $500 fee for probation and $75 in court costs.

Judge Carroll also imposed 200 hours of community service, part of which will be talk about the dangers of gun violence.

“He can proceed to go to the community college,” Judge Carroll said. “He’ll have to work out leaving the territory with probation.”

Randolph Rabsatt

SHOT DEAD: Randolph Rabsatt

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 50 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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