The Klansman gang trial yesterday heard that on the Sunday when Stephanie Christie, the sole female among the 33 accused, was arrested on the premises of her church in Yallahs, St Thomas, she pleaded with the arresting officer to allow her to witness the ordination of her husband planned for that day.
The early morning visit by Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigations Branch (C-TOC) detectives to the Niceville community found Christie ensconced in a Toyota Noah amidst the bustle of preparations for the grand affair. Those plans were, however, short-circuited.
The lead detective in the matter, testifying before trial judge Chief Justice Bryan Sykes in the Home Circuit Division of the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston yesterday, said police, acting on intelligence, went to the church on that Sunday in 2019 just before 8:00 am.
“At the time there were some indications that there would have been a function. There were a lot of preparations being made for an event. People were cooking. When we got to the church... the team proceeded to the church based on intelligence. I saw a Toyota Noah parked in front and a female sitting inside,” the investigator said.
“Based on the information I had I knew at the time that the female was Stephanie,” he told the court.
He said himself and another detective approached Christie, called her by name, and she answered.
He said, upon introducing himself to her and telling her that she was a suspect in an ongoing gang investigation, Christie “made some comments” which he had trouble recalling for the court.
“I told her I would be taking her into custody. After I told her that she said 'Mr [name omitted], please, my husband is the pastor of the church and he will be ordained today,” the lead detective said. He told the court that Christie asked if he could allow her to remain at the convention.
“I told her I could not permit her to and I took her into custody and we left the premises,” he said.
According to the detective, Christie was then taken to C-TOC's Kingston office where her cellphones were confiscated before taking her to Central Village Police Station in St Catherine, where she was placed in custody. He said one of the numbers supplied by Christie for one of the handsets was the same number he had dialled for one of the accused taken into custody two days before.
The lawman further told the court that he also recognised Christie, not just by face, but by voice, as hers was the voice that featured prominently in a phone call to which he was privy during a car chase in the old capital to intercept armed gangsters — aided by intelligence from Witness Number One through an open telephone line.
“I heard it [Christie's voice] on the 25th January 2019 when [Witness Number One] opened his phone line during an incident and that voice was constant on that telephone call,” he told the court, adding that the call lasted 20 to 30 minutes.
The Crown, opening its case on September 20, had said Christie was the “liaison officer” between incarcerated members of the criminal outfit and those roaming free. She was also responsible for securing legal representation for the members of the gang and was the “link” between the gang and rogue cops, the Crown said.
However, her attorney, Alexander Shaw, has presented his client as a dedicated church and community woman with a mundane nine-to-five in a stationery store and not a top-ranking lieutenant in the gang.
Meanwhile, a disclosure relating to that particular incident by the investigator that the police had faced “challenges” in obtaining those call data records was the source of much angst for trial judge Chief Justice Bryan Sykes.
According to the investigator, he and another police team had been able to ascertain the travel path of the vehicle because of the phone, which was in the possession of Witness Number One who, unbeknownst to his cronies, had been feeding the police with details about the criminal organisation.
The chief justice, on enquiring whether the prosecution had the call records from that incident in its possession, was told “No”.
The police investigator, in explaining, said while the forensic Cyber Crime Unit of the Jamaica Constabulary Force had been listening in on the call at the time, and had recorded it, the police had faced difficulties in getting the call data from the telecommunications companies for the cellular phones used at that time.
“How can there be a difficulty in you getting information from a service provider when the police are investigating serious crimes? How is that possible? So, none of the service providers provided the call data? I want to know if that is what is being said, because something is seriously wrong. Does the law permit them to withhold the information? Because if that is so, the law needs to be changed; something is seriously wrong here, no, man, that can't be,” Sykes said.
The investigator, in the meantime, told the court that, the service providers aside, the recordings of that call made by the forensic Cyber Crime Unit were, however, available.
In the meantime, he said, while the police had submitted all the phones taken from the various accused upon arrest for analysis, the reports requested from the service providers for the trial had not been forthcoming, even with intervention from superiors in the force.
As to the night of the incident in question, he said two alleged members of the criminal organisation died following a supposed shoot-out with the police. He said Witness Number One, who was aboard the motor vehicle with the two gangsters at the time of the incident, was unharmed but badly “shaken”. He told the court that he took him to a safe house following that incident.
Witness Number One, earlier in the trial, had testified that he gave the police three phones with recordings of conversations between himself and members of the gang, including alleged leader Andre “Blackman” Bryan. Last week one of the three devices was successfully entered into evidence.