FBI Hate Crime Report May Be Introduced in Bob Sells Trial

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) found no connection between the reported 2005 hate crimes around Love City and a June 2005 incident between two local business owners, according to a St. John Tradewinds source.

The FBI report has been kept from the public pending the trial of local businessman Robert Sells charges stemming from an altercation with a neighboring businesswoman before V.I. Superior Court Judge Brenda Hollar on Monday, June 19.

Sells, owner of Close Reach Imports, pled not guilty to felony intimidation, disturbing the peace and aggravated assault and battery charges before Hollar in November 2005.

At a June 15 pre-trial hearing, Hollar ordered the trial to begin on June 19. It is not known if the FBI report will be used in the trial by either Sells’ defense attorney, Treston Moore, or the prosecution.

“Both sides agreed the FBI investigation found no connection between the reported hate crimes and Sells’ incident,” the source told St. John Tradewinds.

Citizen’s Arrest for “Pushing”
The businessman was arrested by citizen’s arrest in June 2005 for assaulting a neighboring business owner, Esther Frett, in Meada’s Plaza in downtown Cruz Bay.

The V.I. Police Department (VIPD) report on the June 3 incident states that Sells “bumped” into the woman, “pushing her slightly, causing her to become off-balance.”

The original charges stemming from the altercation were filed as misdemeanors and Sells was released on bail. The misdemeanor charges were dropped and two new felony intimidation charges, in addition to the aggravated assault and battery and disturbing the peace charges, were filed in October 2005 in V.I. Superior (Territorial) Court.

Sells has not been named as a suspect in any of the alleged bias-motivated crimes which occurred on St. John last summer, but was the target of two arson attacks before being reindicted on the more serious charges.

After Frett reported being abducted and assaulted near her waterfront East End home in August, rumors spread that the reported crime was racially motivated. The reported kidnapping was one of the incidents being investigated by the FBI.

No Information on Suspected Arsons
Following a heated island meeting in Frank Powell Sr. Park on August 31, 2005, Sells’ Jeep was set ablaze in front of his Cruz Bay retail store. The following evening, the native-owned building housing Sells’ first floor shop was set ablaze.

VIPD officials have not released any information about whether those incidents were captured by the nearby VIPD security cameras.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been investigating both suspected arsons and have not released any information. A reward has been offered.