George Morara’s tribulations started when he masqueraded as a ‘Doctor Nyamweya’ working with the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), on June 8, 2012, a day he strolled into the premises of Nairobi Aviation College at Kahawa House.
He convinced a group of students that he was offering internships at Kemri and requested those interested to accompany him to the institute.
With lots of excitement, six students armed with their laptops boarded a waiting minibus and on reaching the said “internship institution”, they were told to leave their gadgets in the vehicle and go into a building.
However, Morara left them inside the building, got into the minibus and transferred the laptops into a waiting Saloon car and drove off, leaving the students in shock.
The matter was reported at the Central Police Station and he was later arrested and charged with six counts of stealing.
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He pleaded guilty to all the six counts and even though he declared himself remorseful, reformed and had led a reflective life while in prison, where he got saved and became a spiritual leader, the trial magistrate was unimpressed.
Terming him a smooth-talking individual who twice took advantage of young people by dangling the false mirage of internships to entrap and steal their laptops, the trial court found him undeserving of mercy and sentenced him.
Aggrieved by the decision, he appealed against the 18-years jail term before the High Court but Justice Luka Kimaru declined to interfere with the sentence, which he found to have been in the discretion of the trial magistrate and properly exercised.
The Judge also held that the non-recovery of the stolen laptops militated against a favourable finding and was unpersuaded that the appellant had turned a new leaf.
He then lodged his appeal at the Court of Appeal on grounds that the judge erred by not considering and ordering that the sentences should run concurrently though he was a first offender.
Three appellate judges said the trial court slapped an excessive sentence of 18 years’ imprisonment on Morara who has been behind bars since June 2015 for dangling the false mirage of internship to entrap and steal laptops from six students.
Morara who argued his appeal virtually from a prison facility due to the Covid-19 pandemic had pleaded guilty before the magistrate’s court and was ordered to pay Sh50,000 for each of the six counts and failure to which, he was to serve three years in jail on each count, terms that were to run consecutively.
Court of Appeal judges Roselyne Nambuye, Patrick Kiage and Sankale ole Kantai said the jail terms were prejudicial to Morara who had by December 18 served seven years, since the offence committed should have been considered as a single transaction that warranted the punishment to run concurrently instead of separate terms.
“Looking at the facts of this case as stated by the prosecution and readily admitted by the appellant, it seems to us quite beyond contest that the theft of the six laptops was so proximate in time, impelled by the same streak of criminality and criminal intent, and occurred in one act of deceit and driving off, as to doubtless constitute a single transaction,” reads the judgment in part.
The appellate court set aside the order that the sentence in the six counts run consecutively and substitute therefore an order that the same run concurrently from the date the appellant was first sentenced.
When he appeared for the virtual hearing last year, he pleaded with the appellate judges to find that he had reformed in the seven years he had been in prison, and to show mercy to him given that his wife fled and left their three children in the care of their grandfather.
He pledged to be a good citizen and a role model committed to nation-building were he to be released.
It is an appeal that was opposed by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP), given that the offence had aggravating circumstances in that Morara chose students and job-seekers as his victims.
This left the appellate judges to decide whether the theft occurred as a single, indivisible transaction or diverse and distinct transactions.
“The former would, in the eyes of the law, attract concurrent sentences while the latter could call for consecutive term sentences, all at the discretion of the court, though a reading of section 14(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code seems to suggest that the default position for distinct offences is consecutive sentences,” reads part of the judgment delivered on December 18 last year.