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Another American arrested in Turks and Caicos over 9 mm ammo in luggage gets suspended sentence of 33 weeks

American gets suspended sentence over ammo
American arrested in Turks and Caicos for ammo gets suspended sentence 01:57

Another American who was arrested in the Turks and Caicos Islands in recent months for possessing ammunition was given a suspended sentence of 33 weeks in prison Monday, the court confirmed to CBS News. Michael Lee Evans of Texas had pleaded guilty and potentially faced prison time over seven 9 mm rounds that were found in his luggage when he visited the British territory late last year.

Evans, who is terminally ill, was allowed to return to the U.S. while he was out on bail, local news outlet Magnetic Media reported. He attended Monday's hearing from Texas via video link.

Michael Lee Evans
Michael Lee Evans Wilkie Arthur

He was arrested in December when the ammunition was found in his luggage at the airport as he was trying to leave the islands after he and his wife renewed their vows, according to Magnetic Media.

Four other Americans who faced similar charges have had to stay on the islands as their cases made their way through the Turks and Caicos legal system.

Ryan Watson of Oklahoma was given a suspended sentence and a $2,000 fine last week over four rounds of ammunition that were found in his carry-on bag when he and his wife were trying to fly home in April.

Bryan Hagerich of Pennsylvania received a suspended sentence last month and a $6,700 fine for possessing 20 rifle rounds that were found in his checked bag on a family vacation. Tyler Wenrich of Virginia was sentenced to time served and a $9,000 fine also in May over two 9 mm rounds that were found in his backpack as he was trying to board a cruise ship.

The three men have since returned to the U.S. They had faced potential mandatory minimum sentences of 12 years in prison, but the courts found that there were exceptional circumstances in their cases, which resulted in lighter punishments for the Americans.

Amid calls from members of the U.S. Congress to show leniency to the Americans, island lawmakers removed the mandatory minimum sentence for firearms offenses, according to local news outlet The Sun. Now judges can decide whether sentences should be prison time, a fine or both.

Alvin Hegner, a co-chairman of the islands' tourism agency, told CBS News the 12-year sentence was intended to address a surge in crime a few years ago.

"Am I happy that it's tweaked now? Yes," Hegner told CBS News senior transportation correspondent Kris Van Cleave in a recent interview. "… Sometimes, you know, everything doesn't go as planned, but we are receptive to new ideas, we are receptive to changing policies that, you know, that continue to make everyone feel safe."

Florida grandmother Sharitta Grier is expected in court Tuesday for a sentencing hearing. She was arrested in May after two bullets were allegedly found in her carry-on bag when she was going home from a surprise Mother's Day vacation.

Chrissy Hallowell contributed reporting.

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