A 21-year-old man who told the court that he is aspiring to become a pilot was on Wednesday jailed for 11 years for raping an underage girl.
Mark Fontanelle of Kwakwani, Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice), was initially charged with raping a 12-year-old girl in November 2021, and was released on $250,000 bail. Following a preliminary inquiry (PI), a Magistrate ruled that sufficient evidence was presented against Fontanelle for him to stand trial for the offence at the Demerara Sexual Offences Court.
On November 7, 2021, in the county of Demerara, Fontanelle engaged in sexual penetration of a child under the age of 16. Represented by defence counsel Teriq Mohammed, he pleaded guilty to the charge when he appeared before Justice Sandil Kissoon.
State Counsel Cicelia Corbin, in association with State Counsel Caressa Henry and State Counsel Paneeta Persaud, presented the prosecution’s case. The prosecution’s facts revealed that Fontanelle used violence during the commission of the unlawful act.
Fontanelle, in his address to the court, begged Justice Kissoon for a chance to turn a new leaf.
“I want to ask that I be given a second chance. I really would like to fulfill my dreams…I would really like to set an example for the other men out there. Please be very lenient and have mercy on me,” said the tearful convict, a former Sunday School teacher, during an impassioned plea.
For his part, Justice Kissoon told the young man that while he does not intend to “take away your life” and his dream of becoming a pilot, he has to impose a sentence that is in keeping with the principles of sentencing. According to the Judge, crimes of this nature have devastating consequences and impacts on young, vulnerable victims. In this regard, he noted that no one should be subjected to being raped. The Judge also alluded to the prevalence of child rape in Guyana — a state of affairs that has been frowned upon by the judiciary.
In calculating an appropriate sentence for Fontanelle, he commenced at a base of 15 years, from which one-third (five years) was deducted for the offender’s early guilty plea, leaving 10 years.
Given the aggravating factors, the Judge added two years, bringing the sentence to 12 years. He, however, gave a discount of one year for Fontanelle’s favourable probation report, his prior unblemished criminal record, and for him being of “much scope for rehabilitation”.
The convict has therefore been sentenced to 11 years in prison for the offence.
While Fontanelle was out on bail awaiting trial, he was ordered to lodge his passport with the court, to report to the Sergeant at the Kwakwani Police Station, and to not contact the victim.