Sex crime charges dropped against man who sat in jail almost 3 years awaiting trial
BY KARYL WALKER Associate Editor — Crime/court desk firstname.lastname@example.org
A secondary school mathematics teacher who was acquitted of carnal abuse and indecent assault charges two weeks ago is thankful that after two years and seven months in jail, he has finally been given the chance to restart his life.
Steve Salmon, 48, was hauled off to jail by officers from the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offenses and Child Abuse (CISOCA) and charged with indecent assault of his then 13-year-old daughter on Valentine's Day in 2008.
Salmon, who was devastated by the charge, maintained his innocence and was offered bail while the case made its way through the courts.
But his life continued its downward spiral when, about two years later, a teenaged female student of City College, who gave birth at Victoria Jubilee Hospital, told CISOCA officers that Salmon was the man who got her pregnant.
The girl was 15 years old.
"She told them I had sex with her," Salmon said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.
When he appeared in court on that charge, his bail was revoked due to the outstanding case involving his daughter.
To compound matters, he also had a case in the Family Court brought by a woman who was suing him for child maintenance.
But Salmon insists that he has been the victim of his own benevolence as the child who accused him of carnally abusing her was his student whose mother he'd had an intimate relationship with.
"I was involved in an affair with her mother. But she passed away and the girl started coming to school irregularly. I was informed that she was coming home late at nights, or not at all, and was asked to take her into my home and offer guidance. I was reluctant at first because she was 15, but after a while I gave in. "She told me that she lived with her man and he was not allowing her to go to school and she had to wash his dirty clothes, so I took her in."
In February 2010 the girl joined his household, which included his common-law wife and his adult female sibling, both of whom he hoped would help steer the girl in the right direction.
"I tell her seh she must listen to what my woman and sister seh," Salmon told the Sunday Observer.
But what Salmon did not know was that the girl was pregnant before he took her in.
Also, according to him, the girl's presence in his home was disruptive. She was disrespectful and her behaviour did not improve despite his efforts. He said he was forced to ask her to leave in April that year.
"I had no choice. I tried my best to turn her around but she was very rude and her presence in my house began to affect my family life too much. She don't have no manners," he said.
The teen gave birth in September 20I0.
Although she had left his home and resumed living with her boyfriend, she fingered Salmon as her child's father when confronted by the police, who demanded to know who had impregnated her.
However, it later emerged in court that she had said the same about two other men prior to that. Salmon and these two men were eventually all charged for carnal abuse of the minor.
A source at CISOCA said that the police were acting within the law in laying charges against all three.
"The abuse could have taken place at different times. We have to listen to the victim. In the case you talk about, the child is a minor, and with some environments that they grow up in, a lot of them are misguided and confused. I would lock up the three men and make the court decide, if I were handling the case," the source said.
However, the deck was already stacked against Salmon. Because he had been peviously charged with the indecent assault of his daughter, the magistrate who handled the carnal abuse case took away his freedom.
Salmon spent almost three years behind bars, languishing in the Port Royal police lock-up, then the Mountain View lock-up, then the South Camp Remand Centre, before being sent to New Horizon Remand Centre.
"I was lucky that some of my students are police officers, warders and inmates. I was never in any physical confrontation. Sometimes, because of the constant stress there might be verbal exchanges, but I never face that," he said of his time in jail.
The experience inside, though, was horrifying.
"The conditions inside jailhouse nuh nice. When you in jail is like you nuh have no rights. Police deal with you any way dem feel. Gun Court a di worst place. It rough. You sleep pan concrete and board. Me see warder buss up youth head. One time dem beat a youth and him dead the next day. Dem put him in him cell after the beating and next day dem find him dead in there. Whole heap a lick to [the] black youth's head and kidney," he recalled.
Salmon's attorney Kashaka Smith represented him on both charges while his client tried to stay alive and sane in jail.
Regarding the carnal abuse case, Smith said that the fact that the teenaged girl -- by virtue of when she gave birth to her full-term offspring -- had become pregnant prior to being taken in by Salmon, and her diminished credibility, were factors that the jury had to give serious consideration before convicting his client.
"The allegations surrounded different periods of time. I argued that the most important factor was the credibility of the witness. She called another man's name in April and he (Salmon) was arrested in June. Her behaviour wasn't normal," Smith told the Sunday Observer.
The court and jury sided with him and the allegation of carnal abuse of a minor was dropped.
A week later, the accusation of indecent assault against him regarding his daughter was also dismissed, ending nolle prosequi, or with a no-case submission.
"That means the case has been dropped," said Smith. "That means that although the matter has been dismissed, if his daughter wants to give further evidence in the case, the court will listen."
"She said she doesn't want to pursue the matter anymore," Smith said when asked why he thought Salmon's daughter chose not to continue her claim.
With the court finally vindicating his claims of innocence, Salmon is thankful that he is able to enjoy simple things like spending time with his other children and enjoying the sight and feel of the sun. However, he is now faced with some serious challenges of life 'on the outside'.
He cannot find a job, and having been in prison for so long, the former math teacher has lagged behind in his National Housing Trust (NHT) mortgage payments on his house in Kingston.
He claimed the NHT had put his house up for sale on its website because of his inability to pay during the period of his incarceration.
"I have worked too hard and come too far to lose my house. It is not fair. I used to pay my mortgage by salary deduction. I need some help. I have no job right now and they want me to pay 50 per cent of the money that build up," he said during his initial interview with this newspaper.
However, there is some cause for hope based on the advice of Private Treaty Unit Supervisor at the NHT Geraldine Pryce. She told the Sunday Observer that Salmon has since provided proof that he had been jailed over the period of time his house payments fell in arrears.
"I went to the court and got a letter proving that I was, in fact, in prison, and the NHT says they have put it on my file and will notify me in due course," he said.
For Salmon, securing this possible reprieve is among the first steps he is taking to rebuild his shattered life.
"I have been a teacher all my life and I hope I can get employment and start all over again," he said.