A Canadian socialite’s guilty plea for the shooting death of a Belizean police chief sparks controversy, as she is likely to avoid jail time in a case that raises questions about the influence of wealth and power on the justice system.
As the trial was set to begin, Canadian socialite Jasmine Hartin pleaded guilty to the shooting death of a Belizean police chief, sparking outrage as she is now likely to avoid serving any jail time.
Hartin, aged 34 and the former wife of British billionaire Lord Michael Ashcroft’s son Andrew, admitted to manslaughter by negligence at the Supreme Court in Belize City on Tuesday, according to the UK’s Telegraph. In May 2021, Hartin shot Superintendent Henry Jemmott in the head while the two shared a drink near Ashcroft’s hotel on Ambergris Caye island.
Speaking outside the court on Tuesday, Hartin said, “I just want Henry’s family to have peace now, and I want this whole thing to be behind all of us so we can heal.” Her plea came just before the trial was scheduled to start on Wednesday. A sentencing hearing will take place on May 31, as reported by Channel 5 Belize, but Hartin is unlikely to face any time in custody.
In a June 2022 interview, Hartin claimed that on the night of the shooting, she and Jemmott were enjoying a drink and a walk to a pier to admire the beautiful moon. She said that Jemmott allowed her to handle his Glock 17 handgun to practice loading and unloading it when it suddenly “just went off.” She insisted, “I don’t remember ever touching that trigger on the gun… I don’t know what happened, to be honest.”
#JasmineHartin today plead guilty manslaughter by negligence shooting death #Belize Superintendent of Police Henry Jemmott. Will be sentenced 31 May. Based on what Justice Sandcroft explained in court, Hartin is likely looking at a non-custodial sentence. pic.twitter.com/Tlxa32VAl6
— Belize.com (@Belizean) April 25, 2023
Hartin speculated that the gun might have been faulty, and she staunchly denied being a murderer, stating, “I’m definitely not a murderer. And I am being set up. I am. I really am.” She argued that the small country’s people were afraid of the Ashcroft family, which holds considerable power and influence in Belize. Interestingly, social media images show Hartin handling various guns at open and target ranges.
The socialite also dismissed rumors of a romantic relationship with the police chief, claiming that Jemmott asked her to rub his shoulder that night only because he had been fishing earlier.
On Tuesday, Judge Ricardo Sandcroft indicated that he was unlikely to “veer away” from a precedent that calls for a non-custodial sentence and a fine for a guilty plea to manslaughter by negligence. However, he had previously informed Hartin that he was “not bound” to it.
Hartin’s attorney, Orson Elrington, told reporters that her primary concern was to spare the victim’s family the pain of enduring a trial proceeding, as reported by the Independent. Last year, Hartin alleged that “corrupt” police officers intended to murder her and stage her death as a failed jailbreak.
Meanwhile, Andrew Ashcroft has been granted custody of the couple’s two children.
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