The two teenagers charged with robbing and severely beating a tourist to St. John pleaded not guilty to several felony charges Thursday, May 14, in V.I. Superior Court.
Jah-Wada Jones, 18, and Lawrence Powell Jr., 19, each entered not guilty pleas before Judge Michael Dunston to charges of second-degree robbery, third-degree assault and grand larceny
Through their attorneys, Jones and Powell requested jury trials. Dunston assigned their case to Judge James Carroll III.
A police officer patrolling Cruz Bay about an hour after midnight on April 12 found the 55-year-old victim, a visitor from Tennessee, bleeding on the ground near the FirstBank parking lot in Cruz Bay.
It was the first night of his vacation to the Virgin Islands. His family owns a time share villa at the Westin Resort and Villas.
While Jones and Powell are the only two suspects arrested in connection with the crime, witnesses told police other men aided in the robbery and attack during which the assailants made off with the Tennessee man’s wallet.
Jones, a St. Thomas resident known as “Smooth,” was arrested the afternoon of May 6. Powell, who lives in Estate Grunwald on St. John, was arrested later the same day.
Both men remain incarcerated in lieu of $100,000 bail Judge Brenda Hollar set at their preliminary court hearing. Their attorneys have filed motions asking for their release from custody upon posting 10 percent of those amounts. The pending bail motions will be considered by Judge Carroll.
At the time of the attack, Jones was under a curfew order as a condition of his probation for a juvenile offense. He turned 18 last November.
According to police, at least two eyewitnesses identified Jones and Powell, known as “Ups,” as the robbers. They said the victim was trying to catch a taxi and had approached the suspects, along with another man, near Joe’s Diner to ask for directions.
The three feigned assistance, but soon reached for the man’s wallet and briefcase and began to strike his face and body. The man, who had just arrived to St. John on the last passenger ferry, said he tried to defend himself, but could not free his hands.
The robbers pounced on the man, ferociously punching and kicking him, leaving him severely beaten. He suffered a sprained leg and ankle, fractured nose, fractured eye socket and several cuts on his head. Doctors believe he will need reconstructive surgery on his eye socket.
The man told St. John Tradewinds that after the beating he was fading in and out of consciousness. He stumbled out of the car park area where the attack took place and then collapsed near the FirstBank lot, where the police officer discovered him and began to perform first aid to stop the bleeding.
His injuries were initially treated at the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center. Hospital officials said the tourist rejected a transfer to Schneider Hospital, and he left that night without further treatment. He was angry and wanted to go to his villa, be with his family and get some rest, according to hospital officials. The next day, however, the man admitted himself into the St. Thomas hospital.
Judge Carrol was expected to set a date for the men’s trial shortly.