Sean Downes in a mug shot, top, and with Celtic cross tattoo on his upper left shoulder, below.
ST. JOHN — A 19-year-old Florida man charged with the brutal late night assault on a popular St. John hospitality industry manager in Frank Powell Park was involved in a recent similar incident in West Palm Beach, Florida, in October 2014, according to an electronic media report in his wealthy hometown enclave.
Sean Downes of Delray Beach, Florida, was released on bail and allowed to leave the U.S. Virgin Islands to return for trial after being arraigned in Territorial Court on Monday, July 20, for brutally beating long-time island entrepreneur and entertainer Tommy Farrell early Sunday morning, July 19, as part of a small group of young visitors.
Farrell told St. John Tradewinds he approached the group in the park to ask them to stop vandalizing patio furniture at a closed outdoor restaurant in Frank Powell Park opposite the Cruz Bay ferry dock. The long-time St. John resident said he was punched in the head without warning and lost consciousness after the first blow.
From the multiple injuries to Farrell’s face visible in photos taken after the attack it is apparent that Farrell also was struck numerous times, apparently while unconscious. Farrell also complained of bump on the back of his head from hitting the ground when he was knocked unconscious and back injuries possibly from being kicked and beaten while unconscious on the ground.
Eerily Similar Case in Florida
Downes was charged with aggravated battery in an eerily similar assault on a stranger outside a private party in West Palm Beach, Florida, in September 2014, according to a police document provided by the internet news site operator and lawyer.
Events at the party had “Sean Downs” facing felony battery charges and his alleged victim left with potentially permanent facial scarring and disfigurement.
“As he turned away the suspect punched him in the left temple and he fell to the ground,” reads the West Palm Beach Police Department report published by the internet site. “Valencia (the victim’s friend and witness) said the victim was knocked out and the suspect kept hitting him on the ground.”
“Valencia estimated the (sic) his friend was punched eight to ten times,” the police report continues. “The victim only remembers after that was waking up in Palm Beach Gardens Hospital emergency room.”
Florida Prosecution Dropped
The prosecution of the Florida case ceased in April when criminal charges apparently were dropped in a sealed settlement of the case in a legal maneuver allowed under Florida law, according Warren Redlich, the founder of West Boca News, an internet news site operator who is also a lawyer and “high-end” real estate broker in West Palm Beach.
Florida law allows the accused to settle criminal actions privately, Redlich explained. The lawyer said he has filed a formal request for the public record of the prosecution and disposition of that case. (The original charging documents in that case also misspelled Downes name, a common tactic to obscure arrest records.)
“Florida law allows people to buy their way out of a criminal charge,” Reddich explained to St. John Tradewinds. The lawyer has applied for a copy of the case file from the prosecutor.
V.I. Territorial law apparently does not allow for a similar disposition of a criminal charge.
Additional Charges Possible
Downes was granted bail and was scheduled to leave the territory at the end of the week, according to Farrell. Downes was ordered to return to the V.I. for further court action on August 8, his victim reported.
When or if Downes returns to the territory for the disposition of the charges against him, he may have to try to buy his way out of more than one criminal prosecution however.
The alleged serial sucker-puncher also may face additional charges in a similar assault on a female employee of a popular Cruz Bay late-night spot and a male co-worker shortly before the park attack.
In that incident, Downes is accused of punching the young woman in the face and kicking the male employee in the groin while being asked to leave the bar with several friends shortly before the attack on Farrell in nearby Frank Powell Park. The bar attack was captured on surveillance video that was being brought to V.I. Police Department to support additional charges against Downes, according to St. John Tradewinds sources.
In V.I. Territorial Court on Monday, June 20, the charges against the three people initially charged in the attack on Farrell were changed, dropped and shuffled before only Downes was charged with simple assault.
The ages of those arrested in the original police report and the charges were different in the delayed V.I. Police Department press release and the court record and subsequently were dropped, reduced or otherwise altered.
Witnesses to Florida Incident
According to the Sept. 21, 2014, incident reported filed by the West Palm Beach Police, which was filed several days after the attack and after the victim had received medical treatment.
“He was treated there for two hours and left,” the police report said. “The victim’s face had four large bruising areas on his right cheek and forehead. There were also three cuts on the left side of his mouth that required sutures.”
“It appears the cuts will leave permanent scarring or disfigurement on his face. He also has a (sic) injury to the back of his head as he fell backwards,” the report continued.
“The victim and witness provided written statements,” the West Palm Beach Police Department report continued. “Based on the above facts the defendant Downes is charge(d) with one count of aggravated battery. This case was sent to the State Attorney’s office for a warrant request.”
“The Sheriff’s records indicate this Mr. Downs is a resident of The Oaks, a gated community… ,” said the internet news site entrepreneur. “As best we can tell this is actually Sean D. Downes.”
“If we are correct (we’re pretty sure but you can never be positive), his father Sean P. Downes is CEO of Universal Holdings, Inc. who received an eye-popping $9.4 million last year in executive compensation according to BusinessWeek at only 44 years old,” Redlich wrote St. John Tradewinds.
“According to the probable cause affidavit, the younger Downes was at a house party with a bunch of teens, running around looking for a fight,” Redlich e-mailed in providing St. John Tradewinds with a copy of the purported official document. “When the victim was leaving, Downes confronted him to start a fight.”
“The victim turned to leave and Downes then hit the victim in the left temple, knocking him out and to the ground,” Redlich added. “While the victim was unconscious on the ground, Downes continued punching him as many as ten times.”
“The victim woke up in the ER, and had suffered four large bruises on his face, multiple cuts on the left side of his mouth requiring sutures and likely to leave substantial and permanent scars, and an additional injury on the back of his head where it hit the pavement,” Redlich related.
Delayed Prosecution, Dropped Case
“West Palm Beach police referred the matter to the State Attorney, who waited over 3 months before filing this case in court in early January,” the attorney continued. “Mr. Downes was booked Wednesday morning, minutes before his ‘first appearance’ court session began and released a few hours later on $3,000 bond.”
“The timing suggests that he may have been represented by an attorney who surrendered him at the right time to make sure things moved smoothly,” Redlich wrote. “Court records do not yet indicate any attorney appearance, nor how the bond was posted.”
The home address for the younger Downs listed in the blotter is owned by Lori Downes, who is divorced from the father, according to Redlich. The seven-bedroom, 7,000 square-foot residence was purchased for $1.4 million in 2013, according to the internet writer, real estate agent and lawyer.
The date of birth for the arrested Sean Downs matches the newspaper showing Sean Downes birth in 1995 to parents Sean and Lori Downes, according to Redlich.
Downes will turn 20 in August.
It remains to be seen whether he returns to the USVI and his case is prosecuted before then or if he celebrates his birthday on St. John, St. Thomas or St. Croix.
Atty. Redlich is the founder of West Boca News and a resident of West Boca Raton. He is a criminal defense and personal injury attorney in both Florida and New York, and also a real estate agent listing high-priced houses in West Boca Raton only. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 888-733-5299.