Florida grandmother arrested in Turks and Caicos over ammo in bag fined $1,500 and given suspended sentence

The fifth American who was arrested in the Turks and Caicos Islands in recent months for having ammunition in her bag was fined $1,500 and given a suspended sentence of 23 weeks Thursday, a spokesperson confirmed to CBS News. Sharitta Grier, a grandmother from Florida, went to the British territory on a surprise Mother’s Day vacation that ended with her in custody when authorities found two bullets in her carry-on bag as she was trying to go home.

Grier is expected to leave the islands Thursday afternoon. After her mid-May arrest, she told CBS News she had to spend a few nights in jail.

“They chained me to a chair by my leg,” she told CBS News senior transportation correspondent Kris Van Cleave. “It’s cold, scared, it was awful, it was so awful, I couldn’t sleep.”

When she was released from custody, Grier had to remain on the islands with a possible prison sentence hanging over her as her case went through the courts.

“You have good days, bad days — mentally draining, like not knowing what’s going to happen or when it’s going to happen, if a court date’s going to be pushed back,” she told Van Cleave last month. “It’s a lot, it’s a lot mentally.”

She had said she was optimistic about her case after other Americans who were also arrested over ammunition found in their bags avoided prison time but had to pay fines before they could return to the U.S.

In May, Bryan Hagerich of Pennsylvania was given a suspended sentence and fined $6,700 over 20 rifle rounds that were in his bag at the end of a vacation. Tyler Wenrich of Virginia was sentenced a few days later to time served and a $9,000 fine for two 9 mm bullets that were found in his backpack as he was trying to board a cruise ship.

Ryan Watson of Oklahoma received a suspended sentence and a $2,000 fine last month over four rounds of ammunition that were found in his carry-on bag when he and his wife visited the British territory earlier this year. Michael Lee Evans of Texas, who was allowed to return to the U.S. for medical reasons while his case was pending, was also given a suspended sentence.

The five Americans had faced potential mandatory minimum sentences of 12 years in prison. Amid pressure from U.S. lawmakers to show the Americans leniency, elected officials on the islands changed the law to give judges more discretion for sentences in firearms cases.

Sarah Barth and Elizabeth Campbell contributed to this report.

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