Mugshot of Henson Bedminster. By THE VIRGIN ISLANDS POLICE DEPARTMENT
ST. THOMAS — Bail has been set in the amount of $100,000 for a man accused of perpetrating what a Judge described as a woman’s "worst nightmare."
Henson Bedminster appeared virtually before Judge Henry Carr on Friday and was advised that he is charged with first-degree rape, and first-degree unlawful sexual contact. He is also charged with first and third-degree assault. The charges stem from an alleged sexual assault in the early hours of October 13.
It is alleged that at about midnight, a caucasian female was in the area of Wimmelskaft Gade when she was attacked by a man later identified as Bedminster. The woman told police that she had observed the man sitting in the area while she was taking photographs of buildings, artwork and the nightlife in the area. She said that he later grabbed her and dragged her between a series of parked vehicles and partially into a water gut. There, she says he pinned her on the ground using the weight of his body, and restrained her hands to stop her attempts to fight against him. In describing the incident to police, the victim noted that the assailant told her “stop fighting me, you are not getting away. No one will help you and you cannot charge me with anything.” According to the victim, he then stuck his hand under her dress and inserted his finger into her vagina. She said while she was initially unable to scream due to fear, she eventually struck the defendant and screamed audibly for help, at which point he released her and she escaped.
According to the probable cause fact sheet, the victim was able to take a photograph of the man as he remained in the area after the attack. However, when he noticed her taking the photograph he allegedly grabbed a rock and threatened her saying, “I’ll smash your [expletive] head in if you take a picture of me.” The woman subsequently ran from the area and sought help from a passerby who she was familiar with. They then called 911, prompting law enforcement and emergency medical personnel to be dispatched to the scene.
The fact sheet notes that the woman was extremely distraught and tearful when interviewed by police, asking, “why would he do that to me? I have been here over two years, and no one has ever violated me like that.”
When shown the photograph of the suspect, two police officers were able to identify him based on his prior encounters with the law. Henson Bedminster was found and detained by police hours later. While being interviewed by officers, Bedminster admitted to his actions and apologized, stating that “things just got out of hand,” and that he was “sorry.”
At Friday’s advisement hearing, the court was informed that while Bedminster is originally from Dominica, he has a criminal history in the USVI which dates back to 2007. This includes 6 arrests and 5 convictions for various offenses. Appearing for the people, Attorney Brenda Scales requested that bail remain as set at $100,000 as the defendant is considered a danger to the community. Scales noted with concern the nature of the offense, stating that the thought of being dragged into an alley at night and raped, is every woman’s worst nightmare.
Public Defender Andy Johnson attempted to argue against the charge of first-degree rape, contending that apart from the insertion of a finger, there was no claim of sexual intercourse. However, Judge Carr maintained that this penetration fit the description of rape as defined by the law. Johnson further argued that there was no rape kit conducted and no evidence to go on regarding consent. The attorney also questioned the victim’s claims that she was photographing nightlife in the area at that time, suggesting that there may be “more to the story.” Johnson asserted that it was essentially the woman’s word against that of the defendant.
Judge Carr told the Attorney that he respectfully disagreed with his arguments and concurred with Attorney Scales that the incident described is the worst nightmare he can imagine for any woman. Moreover, the Judge affirmed that there was no reason at this time for him to doubt the victim’s claims regarding what she was doing in the area.
Concluding that Bedminster is a danger not only to the victim, but to the wider community, Judge Carr affirmed that bail would remain as set in the sum of $100,000. However, to secure his release, the defendant must identify a suitable third-party custodian and will be subjected to 24/7 house arrest with electronic monitoring.
As part of his bail conditions, he is prohibited from having any contact with the victim and must maintain a 100-feet distance from her at all times. Attorney Johnson noted that his client was effectively homeless for the time being and would be unable to identify a third-party custodian or a residential address.
If convicted of first-degree rape, Bedminster faces a minimum incarceration of 10 years and a maximum of 30 years. The offenses of first-degree unlawful sexual contact and first-degree assault each carry a maximum imprisonment of 15 years. If found guilty of third-degree assault, he faces a maximum fine of $3,000, a maximum incarceration of 5 years or both.