“You can’t allow your emotions to take control of you. It’s hard, a really hard lesson but I hope you learn from it. I need to send a message so that you or anyone else won’t do something like that again.”
This was the advice given by Senior Magistrate Leron Daly yesterday to two women whom she had just sentenced to 3 years’ imprisonment each and ordered them to pay a fine of $5M each, for humiliating their friend by sharing a sex tape on social media.
With tears streaming down her face, 21-year-old Melissa Ann Pestano, a mother of one, of Wortmanville, Georgetown, told the court that her friend’s action really hurt her, since they grew up together and lived like sisters.
“My emotions took control of me because I couldn’t cope with what I found out, that she [victim] was doing that behind my back.”
While Pestano was in tears explaining to the court the reason for videoing her friend and sharing it, co-accused Janelle Williams, 23, a mother of two, also of Wortmanville, Georgetown, stood next to her, and downed her head, and showed little emotion.
Pestano and Williams were arraigned in the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts. The women pleaded guilty to the individual charges that were read to them.
The court heard that between January 20 and January 21, 2020, Williams used a cell phone to transmit data that was intended to humiliate the victim. It was also alleged that Pestano used a computer to cause distress to the victim.
Police prosecutor Richard Harris told the court that the defendants and the victim are friends and that they are very close. The defendants had a conversation and it was revealed that the victim was having an affair with Paul Pollard (Pestano’s boyfriend).
The prosecutor added that as a result, the defendants confronted the victim about the alleged affair and later planned to get back at the victim. The women arranged for Pollard and the victim to book a room at the K&VC International Hotel at South Road, Georgetown.
After Pollard checked into the room with the victim, 10 minutes later Pestano arrived and was given information about which room they were in. Pestano then entered the room and videoed the sex act.
The court heard Pestano then sent a copy of the video to Williams, who then shared the video with several persons. Thereafter the video was widely circulated on social media. The matter was reported and the defendants were later arrested and subsequently charged for the offence.
After listening to the facts of the charge, Magistrate Daly told the defendants that under the Cyber Crime Act the offence they are charged with carries a summary conviction of 3 years along with a fine of $5,000,000.
Pestano and Williams were then sentenced to 3 years’ imprisonment and fined $5,000,000 each. Pestano burst into tears while she was being escorted downstairs by a female police officer.
The video that Pestano recorded with the victim and her boyfriend (Pollard) was widely circulated on Facebook and other social apps. A few days after the video was posted, the victim took to her Facebook page and made a video apologizing and pleading with persons to stop sharing the video, since they don’t know the effect it was having on her.
A popular singer from Jamaica posted the video on his Instagram page and from there other persons from the Caribbean started sharing the video. However, due to the explicit video being reported, most of the videos were removed from social media platforms.