PHNOM Penh Municipal Court this week heard the case against a Frenchman accused of attempting to rob a bank in February, with the defence saying the suspect deserved a lenient sentence because at the time of the incident he had been “disappointed” his parents hadn’t called to wish him a happy birthday.
Francois Chateau, 48, was arrested on February 11 after he allegedly held up a Cambodia Asia Bank branch in Chamkarmon district and stole nearly US$300.
Intoxicated, he reportedly ran into and broke a glass door while attempting to flee, and was arrested outside the bank moments later.
At a hearing on Tuesday, Chateau confessed to charges of robbery and illegal use of a weapon, but said that he had been drunk and upset that no birthday wishes had been forthcoming from his parents.
Defence lawyer Dun Vibol told the court that Chateau’s parents typically sent him money for his birthday, but had failed to do so this year.
“He was very drunk and disappointed with his parents for not congratulating him on his birthday,” he said.
“His parents always send him money through that bank, but they failed to do it, and that caused him to commit a foolish act.”
Dun Vibol also said Chateau was suffering from “brain damage” caused by a motorbike accident last year, which he said made the suspect “very aggressive”.
He went on to note that the gun used during the robbery did not belong to Chateau.
“It was given to him by a Canadian man who used it as collateral for my client to fix his car at his garage,” he said.
“I request the court to slash down my client’s sentence to a minimum, because he confessed to the two charges. He did them innocently in his deeply drunken and anxious state.”
But lawyer Cheng Peng Hab, who is representing the bank, said the excuses offered by the defence did not justify Chateau’s actions.
“They were not related to the crime, and if he was drunk and had a mental illness, he should not have committed armed robbery,” he said. “He should have hung out around the riverside or somewhere else.”
He said the bank was hoping for Chateau to be sentenced “according to the law”. In addition, he said, Chateau should be made to repay the $300, as well as $205 to repair the glass door and $5,000 in compensation.
If found guilty, Chateau faces a sentence of five to 10 years in prison for the robbery, as well as an additional six months to two years for the illegal use of a firearm.
Presiding Judge Sin Visal said no date had been set for the verdict.
Child sex case postponed
Yesterday, the Municipal Court postponed for the third time a hearing against a Japanese man accused of purchasing sex from a 13-year-old girl in September last year.
Atsushi Kato, 48, was arrested on September 7 from a Social Affairs Department rehabilitation centre, where he had met the Vietnamese girl, a prostitute who had been sent there for re-education.
He was charged with purchasing child prostitution after allegedly confessing to having sex with the girl at a brothel in Daun Penh district’s Chaktomuk commune 10 times before he was arrested.
Defence lawyer Kao Soupha expressed outrage at the postponement. “Court officials should have informed me in advance, not just for me and my client but for everyone,” he said.
“A court clerk only just informed us that the case is postponed to an unscheduled date. It wastes our time, and my client has been in jail for nearly a year.”