NewsNational News


Turks and Caicos revises firearms law after arrests of Americans, including Virginia dad fined $9,000

wenrich 2.jpeg
Posted at 9:09 AM, Jun 21, 2024

Turks and Caicos is revising part of its firearms law that recently caused legal trouble for several Americans carrying ammunition into the British Overseas Territory, House of Assembly member Edwin Astwood said in a statement Friday.

The revision comes weeks after a bipartisan US congressional delegation traveled to the islands asking for charges to be dropped for five Americans whom they said “inadvertently” had ammunition in their luggage.

It is a crime to bring firearms or ammunition into the territory without prior permission from police.

The amendment passed by the House of Assembly on June 14 clarifies that in sentencing for firearms-related offenses, courts have the discretion to impose either a fine, a custodial sentence, or a mixture of both in exceptional circumstances, the statement read.

Previously, the law mandated courts to impose both a fine and a prison sentence of 12 years, although it allowed reduced sentences under “exceptional circumstances.”

WATCH: Virginia man reunited with family following Turks and Caicos detainment

Virginia man reunited with family following Turks and Caicos detainment

“The amendment was introduced to address concerns about the rigidity of the previous sentencing framework, which mandated both imprisonment and financial penalties for all firearms offenses, regardless of the specific context or severity. This often resulted in disproportionately harsh sentences that did not always fit the nature of the crime or the circumstances of the offender,” Astwood said.

The mandatory minimum has not changed from 12 years, according to Sheena C. Mair, a lawyer for Sharitta Shinese Grier, an American awaiting trial. The only change is if the court finds exceptional circumstances allowing the departure from the mandatory minimum of 12 years, they can impose a custodial sentence or a fine or both.

Bryan Hagerich, one of the five Americans arrested for carrying ammunition, is back in the United States after receiving a suspended 52-week sentence and a $6,700 fine. Hagerich was allowed to leave the territory and return to the US once he paid the fine, his attorney Oliver Smith said.

Tyler Wenrich, from Louisa County, Virginia, previously pleaded guilty to similar charges and was sentenced to time served and issued a $9,000 fine, according to court records.

WATCH: New information about Virginia dad Tyler Wenrich charged in Turks and Caicos

New information about Virginia dad Tyler Wenrich charged in Turks and Caicos

Ryan Tyler Watson, another American awaiting his fate after being charged with possession of four rounds of ammunition, is expected to be sentenced Friday, a little under a month after he pleaded guilty.

Michael Lee Evans, a Texan in his 70s, who pleaded guilty to possession of seven 9mm rounds of ammunition, was scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday – though it is unclear based on court records if the sentencing happened. CNN has reached out to his attorney for more information.

Grier, a Florida mother, said she had no idea that two rounds of ammunition were at the bottom of her luggage when she traveled to Turks and Caicos, according to CNN affiliate WFTV.

She was released on bail but can’t leave the island until her case concludes and must report to a local police station weekly, WFTV reported. Grier is expected to appear in court to plead guilty on June 25, her lawyer said.