Third American Receives Suspended Sentence in Turks and Caicos for Ammunition Possession

Third American Receives Suspended Sentence in Turks and Caicos for Ammunition Possession

Ryan Watson, the third American arrested in Turks and Caicos for possessing ammunition, receives a suspended sentence and a fine. The case adds to growing scrutiny over mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

United States, Bollywood Fever: A third American, Ryan Watson from Oklahoma, was given a suspended sentence of 13 weeks in prison and a $2,000 fine on Friday in the Turks and Caicos Islands for possessing ammunition, according to his spokesperson.

Watson pleaded guilty after four rounds of ammunition were found in his carry-on bag while visiting the British territory earlier this year. He had been out on bail, unable to return to his wife and two children in the U.S. until the case was resolved. The judge cited exceptional circumstances in the case, deeming a lengthy sentence arbitrary.

“We will make payment shortly, depart TCI, and anticipate being home in OKC tonight,” tweeted spokesperson Jonathan Franks.

Watson was arrested on April 12 when the ammunition was discovered in his carry-on luggage as he and his wife, Valerie Watson, were heading home from vacation. Valerie Watson faced no charges and returned to the U.S. Ryan Watson expressed regret for the incident, claiming it was unintentional.

“This was 100% a mistake and an accident,” Watson told CBS News in April.

Two other Americans, Bryan Hagerich of Pennsylvania and Tyler Wenrich of Virginia, were similarly arrested and sentenced last month. Hagerich received a suspended sentence and a $6,700 fine for possessing 20 rifle rounds found in his checked bag. Wenrich was sentenced to time served and a $9,000 fine for two 9 mm rounds found in his backpack while trying to board a cruise ship. Both men have since returned to the U.S.

The courts acknowledged exceptional circumstances in Hagerich and Wenrich’s cases, resulting in lighter punishments despite the potential for mandatory minimum sentences of 12 years in prison.

Following calls from U.S. Congress members for leniency, island lawmakers have reconsidered the mandatory minimum sentences for firearms offenses. The House of Assembly voted on June 14 to allow judges more discretion in sentencing when exceptional circumstances are found.

The case of Florida grandmother Sharitta Grier remains pending. She was arrested in May after two bullets were allegedly found in her carry-on bag while returning from a Mother’s Day vacation. Another American, Michael Lee Evans of Texas, has been allowed to return to the U.S. for medical reasons while out on bail.

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