Ammunition Charges Dropped: Oklahoma Man’s Wild Turks and Caicos Island Journey — No More Jail Time!

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos – An Oklahoma man faced a potential 12-year prison sentence after he was arrested in the Turks and Caicos Islands for possessing ammunition in his luggage. However, on Friday, Judge Lobban Jackson ruled that the American, identified as Ryan Watson, would not serve any additional time behind bars. Instead, Watson was sentenced to time served and a $2,000 fine, equivalent to $500 for each round of ammunition found.

Watson expressed relief outside of the courtroom, stating that he was grateful for the judge’s decision. He mentioned his plans to pay the fine and return home to Oklahoma to reunite with his children. The judge’s ruling was met with tears of joy from Watson’s wife, Valerie, and other supporters present in the gallery.

Watson’s case was one of several involving Americans who had been detained for similar firearm-related offenses in the territory. Two other Americans, Bryan Hagerich and Tyler Wenrich, had also faced charges but were not sentenced to additional prison time. In Watson’s case, the judge cited exceptional circumstances and the testimony of character witnesses in her decision to forego a prison sentence.

Prior to Watson’s trial, the Turks and Caicos Islands enforced a mandatory minimum 12-year sentence for individuals found in possession of ammunition. However, recent amendments to the law removed this requirement, allowing judges to exercise discretion in sentencing. Premier C. Washington Misick emphasized the territory’s appreciation for visitors, particularly the significant number of American tourists who visit annually.

As Watson prepares to return home, the cases of Sharitta Grier and Michael Lee Evans, two other Americans facing similar charges, remain pending. Grier has not entered a plea, while Evans has pleaded guilty but has not yet been sentenced. Watson’s experience has drawn attention to the strict firearm laws in the Turks and Caicos Islands and the challenges faced by Americans who unwittingly violate these regulations.

In conclusion, Watson’s case serves as a reminder of the legal complexities that travelers may encounter abroad. Despite the initial fears of a lengthy prison sentence, Watson’s story highlights the importance of judicial discretion and the role of character witnesses in influencing legal outcomes. As he prepares to leave the island behind, Watson reflects on the support he received both locally and from his home state of Oklahoma.