The sentencing exercise for Robert Benoit, the Caucasian American who was in March this year convicted in the St James Circuit Court for having intercourse with a 12-year-old girl after she was handed over to him by her father for transactional sex, was on Friday postponed after he became boisterous and demanded a new lawyer.
The incident has resulted in his former attorney Christopher Townsend expressing concern about the man's mental state following his conduct on Friday.
The 59-year-old Benoit, who was unanimously declared guilty by a jury comprising five men and two women following their deliberations in March, had at the time declared that "corruption" and racism had a part in his verdict.
Friday when the matter was called up, Benoit again ranted resulting in his attorney Townsend making an application to withdraw his representation.
"Unfortunately, he seemed to have lost confidence in my ability to represent him and I am most concerned actually about his state of mind. He seemed to have been talking a lot and saying all kinds of things in the courtroom to the point where the judge had difficulty controlling him and so that having been the case, I was constrained to make an application to withdraw from the matter," Townsend told the Jamaica Observer.
"That application was upheld by the learned judge who saw the circumstances. He had expressed a desire for a particular counsel to represent him. I made contact with the counsel and hopefully on the next occasion when the matter will be brought to Kingston that counsel will be able to adequately represent him," Townsend said further.
Benoit, the Observer understands, is to be sentenced at the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston on Friday, September 29, 2023.
Based on the evidence unveiled in the matter, the incident took place in December 2020, two days before Christmas.
According to Benoit, who is a regular visitor to the island, he was in the community to give care packages to people there. The girl's mother said in her evidence that she was responsible for taking care of Benoit's rented home in the area and so would go there to cook and clean for him. She, however, denied knowing what transpired between him and her child.
According to prosecutors, on the night of December 23, Benoit visited the family's home. According to the child, she was instructed by her father to spend the night with the then 57-year-old man and "bring back the money". She said right after that statement was made to her, Benoit bought her father a bottle of Magnum and left with her.
The young girl said that night while she was at his house, she was awakened from sleep by Benoit who was atop her. She said the man had intercourse with her.
The following morning police, acting on information, showed up at the residence in search of Benoit. When he finally emerged from the dwelling the young girl told the police that he had been inside "trying to hide" her.
When asked if she was in a relationship with him, she remained silent, but when asked if they had had sex, she nodded her head, at which point Benoit exclaimed "Oh God, man" and started "sweating profusely".
He was subsequently arrested and charged for sex with a person under 16.
The child's father, the Observer learnt, was hauled before the Family Court to answer to child abuse charges.
The now 14-year-old child is in the custody of the State.