Steven Kingi, Jessee Burns, and Stewart Hubbard (inest), at the High Court, Napier. Photo / NZMEFrom planning a wedding to preparing for a funeral, the family of a man who died after an Hastings attack to recover a sex debt have described their pain as the three men partly responsible for his death were jailed.
Phillipines national Jermaine Arias Ramos, 33, was lured to a property in Akina, on April 1, 2019, robbed of $640 and bashed by at least one of the men.
He was also struck on the head with a glass vase.
His attackers – Steven Matthew Kingi, 42, Stewart Hubbard, 29, and Jessee James Burns, 29 – appeared before Justice Francis Cooke in the High Court at Napier on Thursday morning for sentencing.
They pleaded guilty to manslaughter and aggravated robbery in November last year, after the charges were amended to reflect medical experts’ advice that the injuries were among multiple factors in Ramos’ death, including his use of methamphetamine and a heart condition.
Justice Cooke sentenced Kingi to four years and two months’ jail, Burns to four years’ jail and Hubbard to three years 10 months’ jail. No minimum period of imprisonment was ordered.
Each will serve concurrent sentences of three years’ jail for aggravated robbery.
The three, who have links to Black Power, confronted Ramos after Kingi was contacted by a woman and told Ramos had left a Havelock North motel without paying the full agreed price for sexual services during the night.
She had also provided him methamphetamine.
The woman was advised to invite Ramos to an address with the promise of more drugs and possibly more sexual favours.
The trio entered the address while the woman was in another room and demanded money from the victim, and assaulted him.
They left and the woman re-entered the room to find Ramos on the floor, bleeding from the head.
She was too scared to contact emergency services so had a friend do so but Ramos had died by the time the ambulance arrived.
Crown prosecutor Clayton Walker told the court the men acted as “enforcers”, sent to recover what was a “relatively small amount of money”.
Walker, reading parts of the victim impact statement from Ramos’ fiancee and cousin, described the impact of his death on the family.
A cousin of Ramos’, attending the sentencing from overseas via video link, said it had devastated the family.
“It was so painful because all the hopes and dreams and plans we talked about are all gone,” he said.
“His parents were excited to be coming to New Zealand for the wedding of their first son, instead they came for a funeral.”
The cousin also spoke of the trauma of identifying Ramos, whose face was described as “unrecognisable” after the “cruel and evil” beating.
“It’s very devastating because he had so much potential but was never given a chance to show it.”
The impact statement of Ramos’ fiancee Gwendoline Barber, who has since died, described her difficulty to put the pain of his death into words.
“The thing you don’t deserve is to be given an out for the pain you have caused me.”
Barber had been shopping for their wedding when she got the call to let her know about the attack. Ramos was later buried in the tuxedo intended for his wedding, Justice Cooke said.
“There has been considerable loss felt by those close to Ramos,” he said.
Kingi was represented by barrister Matthew Phelps, Hubbard by Eric Forster, and Burns by Leo Lafferty.
Forster said his client’s apology would be “cold comfort” but should be recognised as a sign of his remorse.
He called for a sentence starting point of five years five months to six years six months jail, saying that the attack had had “disproportionate and unintended” consequences.
“No one of that group knew of Ramos’ circumstance before.”
Phelps likewise argued for a sentence starting point of six years, recognising Kingi’s guilty plea and remorse.
He said his client didn’t have a history of violent offending and had battled methamphetamine addiction.
Burns’ lawyer acknowledged there would be a “modest uplift” for previous violent offending, but said his client had showed a willingness to take part in rehabilitation.
Justice Cooke adopted a sentence starting point of between six years and six months and seven years’ jail, acknowledging the “serious” and “premeditated” nature of the attack, which was also linked to gang activities.
Kingi was held more culpable as the organiser, with a sentence starting point of seven years’ jail – Hubbard and Burns were initially given six years and six months.
Each received the full 25 per cent discount for entering guilty pleas as soon as the appropriate charges were laid, and each also received a 15 per cent discount for factors laid out in cultural reports.
Burns received a three-month uplift for previous violent convictions.