Weeks after a 12-member jury found him guilty of manslaughter, Travis McDougal was on Monday sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment for his involvement in the shooting death of 43-year-old dredge owner Ashok Raghu.
The businessman was killed outside the Botanical Gardens on Vlissengen Road in August 2014, during the course of a robbery committed by two bandits.
Defence Attorney Nigel Hughes said his client had no run-ins with Police prior to Raghu’s killing, stressing that McDougal did not know that his accomplice had intentions of attacking anyone. Hughes, in appealing for a lesser sentence, said that his client stayed on the “straight and narrow” path for most of his life, except for his association with his accomplice, Jermaine Otto, called “Fungus”, a porkknocker. In July 2015, McDougal was committed to stand trial with the porkknocker, but Otto was one of the prisoners, who died in the deadly Camp Street Prison fire, following riots in March 2016.
At Monday’s sentencing, McDougal maintained his innocence and begged for the Judge’s mercy. He noted that while incarcerated, he enrolled in church programmes and was even chosen as prisoner in charge of taking care of his dormitory.
State Prosecutor Tuanna Hardy stressed that McDougal’s actions put the public in danger as a gun was used in “broad daylight”.
After hearing addresses by both sides, trial judge Navindra Singh admitted that he came to the bench with a sentence in mind, but reasoned that McDougal could still contribute meaningfully to society as he was only in his 20s.
“I think I am a very fair judge,” Justice Singh expressed, telling the court that he was “deeply criticised” by family members of both the accused and deceased when sentences are imposed. Justice Singh then stressed that he took into consideration that the jury found McDougal guilty of manslaughter rather than murder – the charge for which he was originally indicted. The Judge, however, maintained that it was very hard to be flexible in this instance. As such, he sentenced McDougal to 25 years, ordering deductions for time spent on remand.
After being sentenced, the accused, clinging to a Bible, was in tears as Police led him away to the prisoner’s holding cell.
Police had contended that one of the two bandits had grabbed a haversack containing $4 million, but Raghu’s wife, Shyrazadi, held onto the haversack before she too was shot. She had testified to seeing McDougal on the night in question. The businessman died from a perforated lung due to a gunshot.
The jury had heard that McDougal knew “Fungus” from the time they attended Lodge Secondary School together. Otto was said to have asked the accused to drop him in Kitty, Georgetown, because McDougal had a driver’s licence. During the trial, McDougal had recounted that when the two were on the motorcycle and had reached the traffic light at Regent and Vlissengen Roads, Otto jumped off and proceeded to a car.
“All I hear is shots,” the accused was quoted in an alleged confession to Police. Otto then contacted him and reportedly said: “I hope my name ain’t get call.”
The State’s case was assisted by Prosecutor Siand Dhurjon.