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Conviction can hit Montano’s wallet
Social media networks were abuzz yesterday with comments from the public as the news of Machel Montano’s guilty verdict hit the streets.
Around 10 am Magistrate Maureen Baboolal-Gafoor, presiding in the Port of Spain Magistrates Court reached a guilty verdict for Machel Montano and one other HD Family member. Proving no one was above the law, she slammed each with a series of criminal offences arising out of an April 2007 fracas outside the Zen night club on Keate Street, Port-of-Spain.
Having previously postponed her decision on two occasions, Baboolal-Gafoor delivered her final say before a full courtroom. Montano was found guilty of five criminal offences, four of which are charges of assault against victims Gerard Borwin, Brandis Browne, Jenelle Lee Chee and Russell Pollonais. The fifth was using obscene language on the said night.
At the time of the incident Montano was with producer/songwriter Kernal Roberts, Groovy Soca Monarch runner up, Rodney “Benjai” LeBlanc and HD Family member Joel Zan Fevek. Each was charged with individual offences of assault but Roberts was the only other defendant involved in the fracas to be found guilty.
The matter has been adjourned to January 12, 2013 at the request of both men’s attorneys. They are expected to be sentenced on January 17. But what does this mean for the biggest soca artiste coming out of T&T? Will Montano lose his endorsements? Will he be prevented from travelling and performing internationally now with a criminal record?
The T&T Guardian spoke with entertainment lawyer Dionne Mc Nicol who said Montano’s conviction could affect his endorsements or even his ability to travel and perform but that would depend on his endorsers, the court and the jurisdictions in other countries. She said it was not uncommon for a convicted citizen to be allowed to leave his country. However that citizen may not be able to enter certain other countries based on their laws as they related to criminal records.
“He could be suspended from travelling over a stipulated amount of time but I really do not think he is going to be permanently banned,” said Mc Nicol. In regard to Montano’s endorsements, she says only his endorsers could really decide if he should further represent them or not.
She added since it was his first criminal offence and he was a cultural ambassador for the country, the court may also take those into consideration and apply a more lenient sentence for the Power Soca Monarch and Road March King. Also contacted was Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development Dr Bhoe Tewarie. He refused to give an elaborate comment, saying only when the sentence is revealed would he make a statement.
Earlier this year the ministry sponsored $5 million in support of Montano’s Going For Gold project, an album dedicated to T&T’s 50th anniversary of Independence and the 2012 Olympic team.
TSTT will continue support
In a release from TSTT, the company to which Montano is a main spokesperson for its bmobile brand, Graeme Suite, manager of Media Relations and Corporate Communications, said while the conclusion to the case has been long in coming since the incident occurred in 2007, the company has continued its working relationship with Montano as one of its brand ambassadors.
He added at the same time, TSTT did not condone resolving conflicts through the use of force and recognised and supported the principle of reform. He said the public would have noticed that over the years, there had been a maturing of Montano’s approach towards his responsibility as an entertainer and role model. “TSTT is very encouraged by his present commitment to his craft, his country and the people of T&T,” Suite said.
He said over the coming weeks Montano and his family would want time to come to terms with the implications of the decision. “The verdict is not to be taken lightly and the company will be seeking to understand his plans for moving forward once the sentence is delivered,” stated Suite.