Home News Local news Victims' Rights Advocate Stunned by Turnbull Pardons

Victims' Rights Advocate Stunned by Turnbull Pardons


Jan. 3, 2007 — Former Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's commutations and pardons of 37 people — charged with offences ranging from murder and rape to embezzling from the government — has raised the ire of some in the community.
Mary Mingus, co-director and founder of the Women's Coalition of St. Croix, was outraged. "I can't believe we worked so hard against these pardons, and there are more than we ever dreamed possible. We were concerned there would be three or four."
In one of his last official acts as governor, Turnbull granted 26 executive pardons — expunging criminal records and immediately releasing those still incarcerated — and 11 commutations — reducing sentences but leaving criminal records intact.
"The community should be up in arms," Mingus said Wednesday. "It is a travesty of justice. All these people are convicted felons. How can he do a blanket pardon like this? It is the highest form of re-victimization."
Mingus added, "The families of these criminals will never be the same, and some of these were probably already-cut deals. The last thing we need is this many felons released back into the community. We [the Women's Coalition] did a lot of work for our victims to bring this to the forefront, to give the victims a voice. The victim's voice is always not heard."
Mingus said her office has been flooded all day with victims and their families expressing their concerns. "The victims are devastated by this total injustice on Turnbull's part," she said. "I am sure there are people on this list whose victims will have to relocate — those whose lives have been put in danger with the release of these felons."
She concluded, "Turnbull has left a huge trail of damage in his wake. We are really sad. It's totally wrong. Perhaps there is some legal recourse; we will investigate. Condoning violence, unlawful sexual contact and armed robbery is wrong."
The last time pardons created such response was former Gov. Alexander Farrelly's pardons of five murderers as he left office in 1994. Among others, Farrelly pardoned Raphael Joseph, one of the infamous 1972 Fountain Valley Golf Club murderers, who had served 22 years of eight consecutive life sentences, and Keith Commissiong who had served six years of a life sentence for the murder of Nancy Linnell.
Turnbull commuted the following sentences:
— He reduced the 13-year sentence of Robert Bastian to time served. Bastian was convicted for unlawful sexual conduct, solicitation of prostitution, and a six-month sentence for unlawful possession of a firearm. Bastian sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl, telling her he could get her into a Carnival event if she would hide in his van. He then took her to an isolated beach and assaulted her.
Bastian worked for the V.I. Government at the Department of Public Works from 1981 until he was incarcerated in 2002. The release from Government House states that Bastian was under the influence of alcohol when the incident occurred, "which caused him to act out of character." Bastian was 43 at the time of the incident.
He was treated for alcohol addiction at Twelve Oaks Rehabilitation Center in Florida. A behavior adjustment report, submitted by the Bureau of Corrections, says he is not a security risk, and his behavior is rated as "very good."
– Turnbull also commuted Michael Salaz's 10-year sentence for second-degree rape to five years. He is serving the third year of that sentence in Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility on St. Croix. He pleaded guilty in 2004 to one charge of second-degree rape. Turnbull said since "the records indicate Salaz has no prior criminal convictions … it appears that a 10-year prison sentence is too harsh."
Salaz's guilty plea stemmed from a plea-bargain agreement. He pleaded guilty to the charge of second-degree rape, which is brought when an adult has consensual sex with a minor who is at least 16, and the adult is more than five years older than the minor.
Salaz claimed the sex was consensual. Judge Ive Swan sentenced Salaz to the maximum: 10 years.
Several community members — including academics, women's rights advocates, businessmen and -women, teachers and one senator — have spoken out against what they term too harsh a sentence. They have written Turnbull asking for an appeal of his sentence or clemency (See "Community Members Asking for Clemency in Salaz Case").
— Turnbull also reduced the 25-year sentence of Rashon Lewis for aggravated rape, robbery in the first degree and unlawful possession of a firearm, to time served. Lewis was 15 years old at the time of the incident. He has served more than 10 years of his sentence. He raped and robbed a 19-year-old B.V.I. student at gunpoint.
Turnbull said Lewis has "earned his General Equivalency Diploma in 1998 and has received several certificates of excellence … and he possesses the aptitude and qualifications to become a productive member of society."
— Turnbull reduced the 12-year sentence of Marcus Garvey Johnson for unlawful sexual contact, because he touched the buttocks of a 12-year-old girl, to six months with credit for time served. He was convicted in October 2006.
Turnbull said, Garvey "must be held responsible for his actions and should be sentenced for his behavior, Garvey has not requested or sought commutation of his sentence, a 12-year sentence appears to be extremely harsh."
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