October 27, 2012 11:51 AM
BELAIR - -Despite a two-million dollar investigation and a case file of more than 10,000 pages that resulted in the Prosecutor's Office requesting life sentences for the two main suspects and sentences of eight to eleven years for the other five persons suspected of involvement with murder and manslaughter, membership in a criminal organisation and firearms, the suspects all maintained their innocence during the sixth day of hearings in the Vesuvius case at the Belair Community Centre on Friday.
Main suspect A.O.W.J. (35) refuted statements made by Prosecutor Bart den Hartigh during the trial that he was the "Pablo Escobar of St. Peters."
"The Prosecutor speaks nonsense. I am not even from St. Peters, but from Betty's Estate," he said.
He admitted that he knew his co-suspects, except for C.E.F., not because they were members of his gang, but because they came to visit the garage in his yard and E.D.W.L. (29) because they were cousins and had the same grandmother.
In his final word, C.E.F. (37), who is facing eight years, said the incriminating statement he had provided to the police about his involvement and that of others was "b***s***."
"I'm not guilty of these charges," said E.S.C.M. (35), who is facing 11 years.
D.D.T. (26), who may be jailed for nine years, also declared his innocence. "I didn't commit any type of crime. I am only guilty of weapons that were found in my house, for which I take responsibility," he said.
During their second round of pleadings, lawyers also tried to convince the judge of their clients' innocence, with some maintaining that the cases against their clients should be thrown out because of irregularities during investigations.
Ralph Richardson was the first lawyer to speak. In pleading for E.S.C.M., the senior lawyer told the court he maintained his objections to the procedure followed during the hearing of anonymous and threatened witnesses.
According to Richardson, the principle of a "level playing field" had been violated, because the interests of the defence had been made subordinate to the safety of witnesses.
He said these witnesses had been able to make incriminating and untrue statements "like loose cannons," while the defence had been prevented from questioning these witnesses before a judge of instruction.
Richardson also remained critical of the use of police officers from Aruba, Curaçao and the (Caribbean) Netherlands during the investigations. He said there was no evidence that this had been authorised by the Minister of Justice.
He also put question marks behind the use of SMS-messages as evidence.
Richardson and attorney Peggy-Ann Brandon both stated investigators had drawn the wrong conclusions from information derived from their clients' telephone contacts.
Pleading on behalf of main suspects A.O.W.J. (35) and C.A.R. (30), as well as D.D.T., attorney Brenda Brooks stated there was no concrete evidence against her clients.
"There is no legal and convincing evidence in the cases presented," said Brooks, who also maintained that summonses were null and void. She further maintained her standpoint on procedural errors; for instance, where the use of bugging devices and infiltration was concerned.
There were no eyewitnesses, except an anonymous one for C.A.R. in the murder of Rodolfo Arrindell, who was shot and killed on July 7, 2011, Brooks stated. However, she tried to convince Judge Rick Smid that it was impossible for the witness to identify the shooter, because the shooting had taken place in the dark of night, while the shooter was driving at high speed in a car with tinted windows.
She further maintained that C.A.R. had an alibi in the Tan Tan case, concerning the attempted manslaughter of Kennedy Fergus and Omax B. near the former Tan Tan supermarket on A.Th. Illidge Road in Dutch Quarter on April 20, 2011. He was attending a funeral at that time, the lawyer said.
Brooks closed her statement with a lengthy quote from a blogger's Website in which an anonymous contributor claimed the investigations in the Vesuvius case had been botched and the wrong persons were being prosecuted.
Lawyer Peggy-Ann Brandon again protested against the use of statements provided by anonymous witnesses and the use of recorded private conversations between suspects.
She objected to the "very selective and coloured" reading of information in the files and likened the trial to a "show." She persisted in her request to the court to acquit her client E.D.W.L., for whom the prosecutor has requested a 10-year sentence.
On behalf of his client A.S.D. (30), who may be jailed for nine years, attorney Cor Merx said several elements in the investigation and the trial had not been handled according to the rules.
In this regard, Merx pointed at frequent police surveillance, the illegitimate use of SMS-messages, wiretapping, and the assistance by detectives from abroad.
According to Merx, his client should be acquitted of involvement in the murder of Eric Lake and Kevin Gumbs, who were shot and killed at Cat's Shopping Centre on A.Th. Illidge Road on August 17, 2011.
His client had an alibi, because he had a witness stating he had driven him to Le Grand Marché to go shopping at the time of the shooting, said Merx.
"My client cannot be convicted of something he did not participate in. That's what one would call injustice," Merx said.
Attorney Geert Hatzmann already made his closing remarks on behalf of his client C.E.F. on Thursday.
Judge Smid will give his decision in all cases at Belair Community Centre on November 15.
Ralph Richardson is an attorney at law at Richardson & Nicolaas. Peggy Ann Brandon is a lawyer on Sint Maarten. Brenda Brooks is an attorney and owner at Brooks & Associates on Sint Maarten. Geert Hatzmann is an attorney at law firm Bermon Law Office on Sint Maarten.