(CMR) American tourist, Daniel Hischer, charged with importing a loaded .22 caliber revolver with five rounds of ammunition, was ordered to pay $13,000 in fines and costs on Friday after pleading guilty.
The 62-year-old tourist was found with the firearm upon his attempted departure Saturday, Jan. 13, on a flight straight back to Minneapolis, Minnesota. He explained to the court that he brought the gun with him for protection as he had been the victim of attempted murder in the United States.
He entered his pleas on Thursday before Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn. Court witnesses indicate that he was obviously distraught and at one point began weeping when the judge mentioned the possibility of a custodial sentence.
The importation occurred on Saturday, Jan. 6, when Mr. Hischer arrived in Cayman with his wife and other relatives for a family holiday. They stayed in East End and “had a fabulous time,” his lawyer Mr. Akiwumi reported. They were scheduled to leave the island Saturday, Jan. 13, on a flight straight back to Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The defendant’s luggage was screened and what appeared to be a small revolver was observed. The suitcase was sent for further checking and the handgun was recovered. Customs officers were called to deal with the matter.
In his testimony, the defendant told the court that he was a victim of an attempted murder several years ago and had purchased the gun for protection. He further claims that he did not know that a license was required to bring the weapon to the Cayman Islands and his wife, who filled out the customs declaration form, was unaware that he had it.
The Crown's lawyer accepted that Mr. Hischer had no previous convictions and he was authorized to carry a firearm in his home jurisdiction. The Crown also accepted that traveling abroad as a rarity for the defendant and he did not know that it was illegal to have an unlicensed firearm in this country.
This was his first trip outside the U.S. other than a cruise around the Caribbean. He did not declare the gun when he came here because he did not know it was illegal in this country, Ms. James concluded.
Mr. Akiwumi submitted some 30 references that described Mr. Hischer as honorable, upstanding, trustworthy and a good neighbor.
In passing her judgment the magistrate did state that an aggravating feature was that the gun was loaded and a big danger was that the gun could have fallen into the hands of someone who did have criminal intent. She rejected his lawyer's submission that the airline was somehow responsible for allowing him to travel here with a firearm and noted it is the responsibility of any visitors to advise themselves of the laws of the country they visit, she emphasized.
Overall, she found that Mr. Hischer’s lack of criminal intent, his intent to remove the gun from the island, his exemplary character and unlikelihood of further offending were cumulatively sufficient for her to find exceptional circumstances.
Being a visitor was not an exceptional circumstance, the magistrate said, but it should not be a reason for a harsher sentence, she indicated.
The magistrate decided that a substantial financial penalty could have a deterrent effect. She, therefore, fined Mr. Hischer $10,000 for the gun, $2,500 for the bullets, and ordered him to pay $500 in costs. He surrendered his passport as surety.
She recorded a conviction against him and ordered the weapon and ammunition forfeited for destruction. Mr. Hischer has until close of business to pay his fines and serve 10 months imprisonment.
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NOTE: Stock photo used.