Jones and Richardson’s cases postponed until half DecemberPOSTED: 12/2/13 2:37 PM
Vesuvius trial enters fourth day this morning
St. Maarten – The Common Court of Justice postponed the trial against gang leader Omar Jones and his hitman Carlos Richardson yesterday to Friday December 13 because one of the attorneys for the two men who currently are serving a life sentence at the Pointe Blanche prison was absent for medical reasons. Attorneys for four other defendants pleaded their cases. The Solicitor-General will address the defense arguments this morning starting at 10 a.m. at the Belair Community Center.
The attorneys for Ekron Morgan, Erno Labega Jr., Charles Fleming and Donnell Thomas had one common thread in their pleas. They all pleaded for acquittals with one exception for Donnell Thomas who admitted to illegal firearm possession.
Ekron Morgan was sentenced to 8 years of imprisonment in November of last year for complicity to murder, firearm possession and membership of a criminal organization. His attorney, Ralph Richardson asked the appeals court to acquit his client.
He said that the prosecution had no right to access the contents of text messages it had obtained as a bonus on top of phone taps. The Court in First Instance ruled last year that no rule was broken; the prosecution obtained the information via the Judge of Instruction because the law does not contain an explicit article about text messages. “The defense is of the opinion that the court incorrectly accommodated the prosecution,” attorney Richardson said.
The attorney furthermore pointed out that the large-scale investigation team the prosecutor’s office deployed to solve the Vesuvius-murders, lacked a legal basis and that officers appointed to the team had no authority to work in St. Maarten Richardson asked the court to declare the prosecution inadmissible on this point.
The attorney also contested that Morgan is an accomplice to the murder of Miguel Arrindell on May 25, 2011. The prosecution bases this charge on phone contacts and on the defendant’s location as it appeared from contacts from his phone with transmission masts of telecom providers. “There is no evidence that my client had in any way assisted with this crime.”
mr. Richardson repeated the argument he presented at the trial in first instance, that the contact from his client’s phone with a particular transmission mast does not necessarily mean that he was in the vicinity of that mast, as the prosecution maintains.
There is no proof that Morgan took preparatory actions to facilitate the Miguel Arrindell murder and the charge that he possesses firearms is “based on hearsay,” Richardson said.
Lastly the attorney contested the existence of a criminal organization and if such an organization existed at all, that his client had been a part of it.
Peggy Ann Brandon, attorney for Erno Labega Jr. who is serving 6 years for his role in the Vesuvius-case returned to the arguments she presented in last year’s trial. She noted that a meeting described by co-defendant Charles Fleming at the Under the Sun car wash on April 19 2011 (whereby friends and family of the murdered Amador Jones reportedly caucused about the hunt for his killer) never took place because the car wash was still closed on that day.
On April 20, around the time of the shooting at the Tan Tan supermarket with Omax Bye and Kennedy Fergus as the targets for Omar Jones and Carlos Richardson, Labega claimed to be at a church in St. Peters for the funeral of Amador Jones.
“My client did not collect any information about the whereabouts of Omax Bye; he is mentioned as the second man (in the gang hierarchy – ed.) but he is not mentioned as a suspect in any one of the murders.”
Attorney Brandon said that there is no proof to link her client to the Tan Tan-case and that there is no proof for involvement in a criminal organization either or for weapons possession. “Not a single statement places my client within the organization. He must be acquitted of all charges.”
mr. Safira Ibrahim was next to claim her client’s innocence. Charles Fleming, who is serving 5 years, said in a statement to the Judge of Instruction on April 15 of this year; “My statements in the file are all bullshit.”
Ibrahim told the court that many of the statements are twisted. “They cannot stay in place,” she said, adding that her client denies participation in the crimes and that he is asking for an acquittal. “Part of the statements made by anonymous witnesses were made after the first day of the trial in 2012. That affects their reliability provided that has been put on paper in a completely different context. He explained that already to the court.”
The attorney said that her client denies that he was in a car with Erno Labega on the day of the Omax Bye shooting and that he therefore also did not see a weapon in the latter’s car. A house search at Fleming’s place yielded no weapons. “If there is a criminal organization at all, where is the proof?” she asked, adding that she demands an acquittal for all accusations against Fleming.
Later in the afternoon attorney Marije Vaders pleaded the case of Donnell Thomas, who is serving seven years for complicity to the preparation of murder, firearm possession and participation in a criminal organization.
Vaders asked the court to void the summons served to her client based on a technicality. If that request is not met, the attorney asked the court to acquit Thomas of all charges with the exception of firearm possession. During a house search weapons were found at Thomas’ place and he told the court he is accepting the responsibility for that. Like the other attorneys, Vaders also denied her client’s membership of a criminal organization.
Solicitor-General Stein responded yesterday afternoon briefly to Vaders’ plea – the others will follow this morning. “In all cases the attorneys put the bar for membership of a criminal organization too high,” he said, adding that the demand for lower punishments based on “similar cases’ does not make sense.. “How many gang wars have we had in St. Maarten? We should not compare apples to oranges.”