Magistrate: Not Guilty, But Is Kern Innocent ?

From the offset the odds of justice being served in the Kern Spencer criminal trial was next to zero. Yet despite the odds many Jamaicans including myself, hoped  that maybe this time , just this once, a Jamaican politician would be held accountable for just the second time in our history. Kern Spencer walked out of Senior Resident Magistrate Judith Pusey’s  Court-room, a free man ,our hopes dashed , it was not to be.

Kern Spencer  Coleen Wright

Kern SpencerColeen Wright

In retrospect I ask myself “what was your hope based on”? There was hardly any precedent in support of  that hope. In fact, only one Politician, JAG Smith, former Labor Minister in a  1980’s JLP  Administration was ever sent to prison  for stealing Farm Workers hard-earned savings. Had he cooperated and paid back the money it would have been swept under the rug and he would not have gone to prison. Ironically it was Portia Simpson Miller the current Prime Minister, then Minister of Labor ,who pushed for the investigations. This  1990 SUN SENTINEL REPORT provides details on the scheme. http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1990-04-01/business/9002010438_1_farm-worker-program-foreign-guest-workers-bank-accounts.

Resident Magistrate Judith Pusey’s decision to dispose of the case by way of Defense’s No case submission motion, smack of arrogance and bravado. I believe her actions have been the most egregious I have ever seen coming from the bench in Jamaica. It smells like a smack-down of chief Prosecutor Paula Llewellyn, I get the last laugh. I know Jamaica is corrupt to the core, but this is the most galling I have ever seen. It is a sad day for our country, particularly when the verdict of dance-hall Disc Jockey Adijia Palmer o/c Vybez Kartel was Guilty. It further cements the popularly-held belief that the laws do not apply to those with political power.

SEQUENCE OF EVENTS.

1] The Cuban Government donated a quantity of energy-saving  light bulbs to the Jamaican people. Four million light bulbs were to be distributed to residents and the project was handed to Spencer who was Junior Energy Minister. Spencer along with his former personal assistant, Coleen Wright was freed on Monday by Senior Resident Magistrate Judith Pusey in the Corporate Area Criminal Court, of the charges of corruption and money laundering.

2] The project was implemented in July 2006.  Allegations of irregularities in the project were leveled against Spencer in Parliament in November 2007 by then Energy Minister Clive Mullings, who asked the auditor-general and the contractor-general to probe the matter  Clive Mullings, told Parliament that $114 million was improperly spent on the distribution of four million energy-saving light bulbs donated by the Cuban Government to the people of Jamaica.

3] In January 2008, the auditor-general reported that about 176,380 of the four million bulbs, costing approximately $92 million, could not be accounted for. There was also an absence of an effective system of budgetary control resulting in the making of payments and the incurring of unpaid obligations of $185.3 million over the approved financial support. On 26 February 2008 Kern Spencer was arrested and slapped with seven charges. He is facing three charges of conspiracy to defraud, one charge for breaching the Prevention of Corruption Act, and three charges for breaching the Money Laundering Act. Spencer spent the night in jail and remained behind bars until he was able to post bail on 29 February 2008.

4] Contractor General Greg Christie released the findings of a probe by his office, which pointed to several breaches of government procurement  guidelines and legislative provisions.

5]Spencer, Colleen Wright, his former personal assistant, and businessman Rodney Chin arrested on charges of money laundering, conspiracy to defraud and breaches of the Corruption Prevention Act  .The Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, the state-owned company that financed the light bulb project, announced that Rodney Salmon, its director of administration and corporate secretary, had been relieved of his duties as a result of the light bulb saga. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=51860.

6]  April 12, 2010 Prosecutors decided to use Rodney Chin as a witness for the Crown.  Chin revealed, under cross-examination by Spencer’s then attorney Patrick Atkinson, that he met with Llewellyn and police investigators at the offices of his attorney in 2009 and was interviewed and notes taken.

7] April 12, 2010  Defence attorneys serve Llewellyn with subpoena to obtain information about what transpired at the meeting. The Magistrate also orders Llewellyn to remain out of court during Chin’s testimony.

8] April 13, 2010 – September 3, 2013 Trial is placed on hold as Llewellyn applies to the Judicial Review Court to quash Pusey’s order . The Judicial Review Court ruled against Pusey. Not satisfied Pusey in an unprecedented move, appealed the decision. The The Appeal Court  ruled in favor of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP.

Critical evidence recovered from an apartment occupied by Coleen Wright was ruled  inadmissible by Judith Pusey, even though Wright lied to investigators that she did not have keys to the apartment on her arrival when the police attempted to gain entry to the premises. She handed over the keys only after she was told a locksmith would be called to secure entry for the police. This was given in evidence by Police Investigator Errington Malcolm. During those testimonies  Defense attorney KD Knight accused the Prosecution of inefficiency. Retired Deputy Superintendent Errington Malcolm had just completed his testimony about the search of the apartment and was about to be cross-examined by defense attorneys when lead prosecutor Paula Llewellyn informed the court that she intended to recall him to identify the warrant and have it admitted into evidence.

Spencer and Wright with Attorney KD Knight

Spencer and Wright with Attorney KD Knight

“I hate inefficiency, especially in the shape and form I am seeing it, Knight exclaimed.”In reference to the DPP’S  comments ,Judith Pusey chimed in, quote:  “I feel your pain“.  Just one of the many instances when the magistrate exercised contempt for the prosecution and the process. Tragically Jamaica’s Laws are archaic and outdated. The people selected to legislate are themselves criminals, so nothing gets done. On the few days they show up for the horse and pony show in the Parliament, they merely bang on desks and hurl insults at each other.  There is no provision in Jamaican Law which gives the prosecutor the power to appeal a decision. In a country as corrupt as Jamaica this creates a breeding ground for more corruption.

No good was done to the Justice system in Jamaica yesterday. The justice system continue to be on trial. It’s no secret I have commented on this case from its inception. There is no secret I predicted that this would be the outcome. Readers of these Blogs may go back and look at the many Articles I have written detailing why Kern Spencer would be set free. As I said in one of my latest comment, what is most egregious about this case, is that a single member of the once esteemed Judiciary, has unilaterally hijacked the process , making a mockery of it. Throughout the process Judith Pusey made it clear that anyone wanting to send Kern Spencer to Prison would have to go through her. Judith Pusey made a mockery of our justice system.

A jubilant Spencer and Wright after being freed by Judith Pusey

A jubilant Spencer and Wright after being freed by Judith Pusey

We haven’s seen the entirety of the evidence, what we have seen is the posture of this Magistrate. We have heard her utterances, we believe her actions telegraphed the decisions she announced yesterday. Whether there was anything untoward on the part of Judith Pusey in this case that would rise to corruption or serious  inappropriate behavior we may never know. What we do know is that Resident Magistrate Judith Pusey gave the Judiciary a horrible black eye .