Attorney Hugh Wildman and I had about four telephone conversations last week after it was reported in the media that he was representing Carlos Hill, the former Cash Plus boss.
To many, this was serious and extremely confusing and disturbing. How could Wildman, former trustee-in-bankruptcy and the person charged with getting the best deal for the many thousands of people who had seen their hard-earned cash disappear, now do a total about-face and represent the man on the other side of the fence — Carlos Hill?
"The question I would like to ask is simple," I said to him. "Are you representing Carlos Hill?"
His response was equally simple. "No, Mark, I am not." Explanations followed.
"With the case coming up, I was contacted by Hill, who made a convincing pitch that he had funds to give back to those who had deposited funds in Cash Plus. With the case coming up the following Monday, he told me that he needed just one more week to arrange for the funds to be available to the Jamaican depositors."
"Hugh," I said to him, "when you were trustee in bankruptcy a few years ago, did you not tell the people of this country, and especially those who had seen their deposits in Cash Plus as lost, that they would be getting back their money before Christmas?"
"Mark, if you go back to the tape, what I did say was, if the Hill brothers co-operate, the people who invested in Cash Plus would get back their money before Christmas."
I left that alone for the moment.
"So, OK, you are not representing Cash Plus nor Hill, so how did you find yourself in this position where people are imputing all sorts of motives, not the least of which is the mercenary attitude of lawyers?"
Wildman said, "At all times, my attitude or stance on this matter, you hear me, has to do with doing my best to seeing that the depositors in Cash Plus get back their funds. Hill had conveyed certain information to me and as the person who was intimately involved in trying to unravel this situation, I felt it my duty to call the DPP and tell her what I knew to assist her in going forward."
Being no lawyer, and especially in recognition that this case had implications which could easily segue into the politics of the moment and the times before when Cash Plus was the rage, I asked, "So, what happened after that?"
"My objective was to convey information and not to appear. But for some reason the DPP suggested that I should appear and state my case."
Wildman then gave me a story of large egos, some of which were too delicate to intermix with the egos of others. In my experience, lawyers, like most people who have been able to convince themselves that they are the brightest and the best, oftentimes need to remind others of their protected status. So, one 'strong' lawyer will refuse to interface with another 'strong' advocate because, guess what, they have normal human failings, like the little woman cussing her neighbour across the fence.
In Wildman's case, at all times in our conversation he insisted that his main objective was acting as a 'facilitator' in his 'ad hoc' appearance for Hill to ensure that the depositors got back their money.
"Mark, all I am in this for is to see the Jamaican people get back their money. I collected no money acting on behalf of Hill. My main intention was to convey information to the DPP to assist her, but she was the one who insisted that I show up. And, of course, that gave many people the impression that I was standing in defence of Carlos Hill. Nothing could be farther from the truth."
A few days later, the DPP gave a radio interview which poured cold water on what Wildman had said. Somewhere in the wash, it came out that it was Wildman who had insinuated himself in the case and not via invitation from the DPP.
This time he called me. "The news is that I am representing Carlos Hill. Let me put this to you, Mark. If I was representing Hill, would I need to call the DPP and tell her that fact? So, how can she assert that I am representing Hill?"
Wildman and I spoke about Hill being able to marshal funds and having documentation to prove he had those funds. "The way I saw it, although the case had been dragging on for years, Hill told me he needed just one more week to get the funds. To me, if one more week got Jamaicans back their money, the additional delay would have been worth it."
Then he added, "Mark, I have to make this point. It is the depositors that is my concern. All of my efforts are simply to allow them to get back their money. If I can somehow act as a facilitator and it happens that they get back, at the very least, the principal, that is all I want to see happen."
Where do we go from here?
In this society, lawyers are not necessarily respected as much as they are feared. To lawyers, it is likely that that fear is all they need to garner respect. The courts, the judges, the police, the lawyers are, like politicians, utterly disliked by the Jamaican population.
Disconnected as much of them are, the richer lawyers will scoff at this. After all, who needs love when one can call on one's power to demand it?
The policeman is freed. Say what!
Jamaicans has always known — especially the little man at street level who has no power, no voice, — that certain elements, too high a percentage, of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, known as the 'police', are loose cannons and should never be part of a 'force' whose members are supposed to 'serve, protect and reassure.'
The entire nation saw the video of the policeman shooting 'Chin Sing' as he was flat on the ground. At the time he was killed by the policeman who seemingly 'hovered over him', I was in Ocho Rios, staying at a hotel close to the town square.
As is my habit I ventured into Buckfield where 'Chin Sing', the man killed, came from. There was no love lost for him. The people detested him. They said he was a coke head and a dangerous man and not one to be trifled with. Who would not want such a man dead, especially after it was said he had just killed a woman in the community?
Had that woman been my sister I probably would have lauded the policeman who had killed Chin Sing.
That is the easy part.
The nation saw the video, taken by a person at the scene and, as far as I know, the video evidence, while not brought up into the main part of the prosecution's case, was never disputed. That the videographer did not show up to give evidence is no surprise to me. Which brave person would present himself to present evidence which had the potential to put away a policeman?
My point is not that Chin Sing was probably someone who was dangerously parasitic to the community of Buckfield and needed to be put away permanently. It is not even that he was representative of the larger criminality that has been stalking Jamaica for too long.
My essential point is that the nation saw a man crawling around on the ground, and a policeman casually walking around and at no time, under any danger of him being stoned, stabbed or even bitten on the ankle.
We saw the policeman use his gun and pump a bullet into the man. We saw the man crawl under the nearby car as he was shot. And then he died.
Something is wrong with a nation of people who celebrate such action without offering a thought that the freed policeman is probably now empowered to do... what?
And worse, the policeman was freed on the basis of self-defence! A man flat on the ground and he is considered a danger to a policeman strutting around with all the time in the world, with a gun in his hand!
In many ways this is not surprising to me. Our people have demonstrated many times over many years that they are unable to think past what affects their next meal. To them, it matters not what happens tomorrow.
Today is everything, even if they have to sell their freedom for every day which exists in the rest of their lives. No wonder they are so easily controlled by politicians.