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Four Charged in Gang Activity
For the first time since the limited State of Emergency in 2011, the police have instituted charges against four people, including a mother and her son, under the controversial Anti-Gang Act. The group was remanded into custody after they appeared before Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar in the Port-of-Spain Eighth Court yesterday to answer a total of seven criminal charges related to gang activity in Port-of-Spain between July and August last year.
Anton “Boombay” Boney, 30, of Africa Road, John John, Laventille, faced five charges, including one for being a gang leader. The other accused are Nigel Sandy, of Oropune Gardens, Piarco; Jameel Earle, 24, of Nelson Street, Port-of-Spain, and his mother Denise Earle, 42, of Las Alturas, Lady Young Road, Morvant.
Boney, Sandy and Earle were jointly charged with being gang members, conspiring with others to murder Kevon Cooper on July 13 last year, the attempted murder of Gregory Goodridge on July 26 and coercing a man to join a gang at Duncan Street, Port-of-Spain. Denise Earle was not accused of being a member of her son’s alleged gang but was charged with assisting and supporting gang activity.
Immediately after the charges were read, attorney Wayne Sturge, who is representing Boney, who was not arrested during the emergency, asked for special arrangements be made for his client to be sent to the Port-of-Spain State Prison as he had been receiving death threats from inmates at the prison facilities in Arouca. “Boney will be in grave danger if he is taken to the Golden Grove Prison or the Maximum Security Prison,” Sturge said.
Ayers-Caesar made a note of Sturge’s claim but said she had no authority to direct prison officials on how to house prisoners. Sturge also said while Boney was in police custody, investigators from the Criminal Gang Intelligence Unit (CGIU) threatened him and took away his diabetes medication, a claim which was denied by members of the unit who were in court. Sturge and the group’s attorneys also claimed investigators prevented their clients from speaking to them while they were detained.
Security measures were increased significantly for the group’s court appearance, with heavily armed police in riot gear guarding all the exits of the court at St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain. Approximately 449 people were arrested in connection with gang activity during the emergency. A little under half were subsequently released without charge.
Of the 236 who were charged with being gang members, all but one, Jason Edwards, were discharged by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard, who said the State had insufficient evidence to prosecute them. In July last year, a San Fernando magistrate convicted Edwards of being a gang member and sentenced him to two years’ imprisonment.
Before the case was adjourned yesterday, Sturge and the rest of the group’s legal team made an application for prosecutors to disclose the evidence against their clients as soon as possible to facilitate a speedy trial. Among the items Sturge wanted disclosed were transcripts of wire-tapping recordings that he said had been made of his client’s phone calls and a video recording of Boney’s interview with police after he was arrested last Friday.
While he could not give a date for the disclosure, police prosecutor Insp Richard Taylor promised it would be made available as soon as the DPP appointed a state prosecutor to the case. The Earles are being represented by Patrick Godson-Phillip, while Richard Clarke-Wills is appearing for Sandy. The four accused will reappear in court on March 6.