Seven prison officers, including an assistant superintendent, are all expected to be charged in connection with last Friday’s daring prison break.
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Machel, Kernal guilty (with CNC3 video)
There was no one to pump his flag outside the Port-of-Spain Magistrates Court yesterday after soca superstar Machel Montano was found guilty on four counts of assault and using obscene language. Equally, there was no “palancing” taking place as songwriter/producer Kernal Roberts was also found guilty on two counts of assault.
The two will know their fate when they reappear before magistrate Maureen Baboolal-Gafoor in the Seventh Court on January 17. Fellow artistes—Joel “Zan” Feveck and Rodney “Benjai” Le Blanc—who were jointly charged with Montano and Roberts, walked out of the court free men after they were acquitted on two counts and one count of assault respectively.
Leaving the court minutes after the decision was handed down Roberts and Montano and his entourage hurried along Duke Street to escape the cameras. Both refused to comment. Wearing a sombre expression, Montano’s mother and manager Elizabeth Montano also refused to comment as she rushed to catch up with the group at the corner of Abercromby and Duke Streets.
Montano’s bodyguard ensured the media kept a safe distance from the group. Montano, 37, created history when he captured the Road March, Power Soca Monarch and Groovy Soca Monarch titles earlier this year. The four men went on trial in 2008 and yesterday’s decision was delivered after an adjournment on November 23. It was the fourth time that the matter had been listed for decision and was adjourned.
After delivering her ruling, Baboolal-Gafoor heard from Montano’s attorney Dana Seetahal, SC, who provided a brief synopsis of the events that led up to yesterday’s ruling. Seetahal said the offences occurred five years ago and arose out of one incident.
Petitioning the magistrate to take into account the length of time that had elapsed since the charge was laid and the outcome, Seetahal urged Baboolal-Gafoor to consider that Montano had no previous convictions or pending matters and up until five years ago had “had no brush with the law up to that time.”
Saying Montano’s life was an open book and his artistic and musical ability were well known throughout the Caribbean and further afield, Seetahal referred to Montano as “an ambassador of T&T in music and singing and his whole life, as it were.”
Pointing out that Montano had been celebrating his Road March win in 2007 when the incident occurred, Seetahal said Montano had not initiated it, as he had been “going about his business enjoying himself with friends and not bothering anyone” when he was approached by the victims, who began wining on him.
Seetahal said after Montano refused to indulge one of the victims a second time a drink was spilled, the fracas began inside and continued outside the club. She appealed to the magistrate to consider the gravity of the offences and ensure the punishment was commensurate with each offence.
Arriving in court out of breath after being summoned from the Appeal Court at the Hall of Justice, Roberts’ attorney Keith Scotland appealed for his client to be given community service. “In the life of the second defendant (Roberts), this must be an aberration,” Scotland said.
Telling the magistrate that Roberts, 31, was a dedicated father of three who lived at the Rain-O-Rama Palace, Diego Martin, Scotland said he had a clean record and was a “prolific producer” who had written hits, such as Band of the Year (2006), Jumbie (2007), Palance (2010), Advantage (2011) and Pump Your Flag (2012).
Urging Baboolal-Gafoor to consider the time, place and context of the events as they had unfolded five years ago, Scotland cited cases in similar circumstances where public figures had been before the court as he said: “This defendant has the opportunity to make a substantial contribution for the rest of his life.”
Revealing that Roberts was a motivational speaker in the Diego Martin and Morvant communities and could not be counted as a “repeat offender,” Scotland said Roberts’ career often took him to the US, Canada and Europe, “sharing the culture of T&T.” Telling Scotland she could not consider community service until a probation officer had completed reports on both men and their suitability to perform it, Baboolal-Gafoor ordered that reports be done.
She reserved sentencing until next year, when the reports will be submitted, after which Montano’s and Roberts’ sentences will be determined. Speaking to reporters, Le Blanc said: “I feel vindicated” while Feveck said: “This has been a long time in coming and it is now over for us.”
Asked how they felt about the guilty verdict handed down in respect of Montano and Roberts, Le Blanc said: “We are supporting them 100 per cent throughout.” Feveck was represented by Larry Williams while Rajiv Persad and John Heath appeared on Le Blanc’s behalf. George Busby prosecuted the matter. The possible penalties:
The assault charges were laid under Section 14 of the Offences Against the Person Act, which says: “Any person who unlawfully or maliciously wounds or inflicts any grievous bodily harm upon any other person either with or without a weapon or instrument is liable to imprisonment of five years.”
Scotland said yesterday the magistrate had a wide spectrum of options available to her when sentencing, including imprisonment, a fine, bond, community service order and compensation. The obscene language charge carries a maximum fine of $200.
Why haven’t they appealed?
Keith Scotland, Kernal Roberts’ attorney, explained yesterday evening in a phone interview that attorneys must wait until sentencing before raising the question of an appeal.
Still no comment
Up to yesterday evening, Montano’s phone was going straight to voice mail. Attorney Dana Seetahal, SC, could not be reached for comment. A woman who answered Elizabeth Montano’s phone yesterday evening said Montano was on another line but she might return the call to the T&T Guardian later.
Assaulting Russell Pollonais:
Guilty: Machel Montano and Kernal Roberts
Not guilty: Joel “Zan” Feveck and Rodney “Benjai” Le Blanc
Assaulting Brandis Brown:
Guilty: Machel Montano, Kernal Roberts
Not guilty: Joel “Zan” Feveck
Assaulting Gerard Bowrin, occasioning actual bodily harm:
Guilty: Machel Montano
Assaulting Janelle Lee Chee, occasioning actual bodily harm:
Guilty: Machel Montano
Using obscene language:
Guilty: Machel Montano
Date of the incident:
The four men were charged following a fracas outside the nightclub at Keate Street, Port-of-Spain, on April 26, 2007.