Graveyard spot my only benefit, witness tells defence attorneyWednesday, October 27, 2021
BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
“A spot in the graveyard” is the only known “benefit” he will be receiving for his decision to testify against the 33 alleged members of the vicious Klansman gang now on trial, the prosecution's main witness yesterday told defence attorneys who insisted he had been granted special favours by the Crown in exchange for incriminating evidence.
The witness, who has been under cross-examination since Monday afternoon, outrightly rejected a suggestion from Esther Reid, attorney for the accused Tareek James, otherwise called CJ, and Rivaldo Hylton that as prosecution witness he was benefiting from special privileges from the State.
“I am not getting any benefits, Miss,” he said.
“You are not? So, you, having told us that being a top-tier member of the gang, you are not benefiting from not sitting in the dock behind me,” Reid snapped.
“I am not getting any benefits, Miss, what's the benefit?” the witness shot back in a resigned tone.
“Are you facing any sentence?” Reid pressed, testily.
“No, you really want an honest answer. The only thing I'm benefiting from is a spot in the graveyard after this,” the witness retorted, eliciting this cutting rejoinder from the attorney: “Have you chosen it?”
That remark drew titters from the accused in the dock who paid rapt attention to the interchange.
In answer to Reid's question as to why he had not decided to come clean earlier than 2020, which would have saved a lot of lives and mayhem, the witness said, “This gang has some very powerful members — entertainers, powerful people in society. I didn't know who to talk to… I couldn't reach out to just anyone, there's a lot of powerful people behind it.”
He rejected Reid's assertions that he had lied about her client James being a bodyguard for alleged gang leader Andre “Blackman” Bryan or that he had been the trigger man in a killing in the Spanish Town bus park where he sported a school uniform to avoid detection, as well as being the shooter in a murder in Lauriston.
“...You were not telling the truth,” Reid said.
When the witness insisted that he had told the truth, adding that “Everybody lies from time to time” but saying he did not, in this instance, the attorney's testy “Are you saying you didn't lie? Are you God?” saw his cronies in the dock double over in silent laughter with Bryan almost catapulting from his seat to look at his dockmates behind him.
He resumed sitting and threw his head back in silent mirth, his eyes glittering in his ebony face.
The witness, in response to questions from attorney Alexander Shaw regarding his clients Stephanie Christie and Andre Golding's alleged role in the gang, told the court that he is “always gonna be scared for the rest of my life”.
Attorneys for several of the accused mentioned by the witness during his testimony sought to prove that his memory was “unreliable”, that he had “fabricated” stories about their clients and had lied to the court and the police about supposed murders and gang activities.
Further, it was suggested to the witness that he had fabricated the stories against his former cronies in order to get “beneficial treatment by the prosecution”.
“When I was talking to the police at first, I was scared of these people… so I held back on the statement to the police,” he said.
Under further probing from Chief Justice Bryan Sykes, who had intervened, he said, “The gang I am in is a very dangerous gang, your honour, and giving statements about them I know it could cost my life.”
He said at the time he gave the statements the charges against him had not yet been dropped but that he had been out on bail.
“I am scared of them, I am a part of this gang, it could cost my life and my family's life,” he said further.
Asked by Justice Sykes how he came to be talking to the police, the witness said he did so after he heard the alleged gangsters in the holding area of the Supreme Court in 2019, following their arrest in 2018, planning the murder of a top investigator of the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigations Branch.
“I didn't want to be part of that, so I sent out a notice. I asked someone to contact the police. I didn't want to be part of this gang, so I contacted them [police] and started to talk to them,” the witness said.
Under further questioning he said, having made the decision while in custody, he sought out the police, when he was granted bail, to give them the information about the gang members and their operations and crimes.
“This gang, they go anywhere and kill anybody. I factored in a lot of things. I have my family and my kids; things like it's a possibility that I will be murdered after this. My family is going to be in danger. I have kids, your honour. I did think about my family, your honour,” he admitted.
As to why he was now giving details that he omitted while he gave his statements to the police using a pseudonym, the witness — whose real name and identity were revealed to the defence just days ahead of the start of the trial — said, “It's already out there, your honour, they know who I am, so I just open up and talk.”
In the meantime, under questioning from Keith Bishop, attorney for the accused Lamar Simpson, the witness — who admitted to being a “top tier” gang member — alleged that the Railway Corporation Company in Spanish Town was also targeted by the gang for extortion monies. He said this when Bishop questioned whether he was aware that his client was no gang member but was gainfully employed to that company.
He further said under cross-examination from attorney Linden Wellesley that while in custody he had felt remorse.
“I want to apologise to the victims for what I did to them,” he stated.
Witness number two, who has been testifying from a remote location since the trial started in September, said he grappled with feelings of fear as he knew turning against the gang could cost him his life and that of his family. He also said he started “drifting” from the Klansman after a friend of his, named Frazzle, who introduced him to the gang, was killed.
According to the witness, being “scared” was the reason he had held back some details from the police when giving his statement to them. He told the court that he had been more detailed in his testimony here because he now knew they knew who he was and there was no need to hold back.
The case, which includes the largest number of accused ever to be tried together in a single matter, is being handled by 40 attorneys. The accused are being tried under the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) (Amendment) Act, commonly called the anti-gang legislation with several facing additional charges under the Firearms Act for crimes allegedly committed between 2015 and 2019. All 33 accused, who are being tried under an indictment containing 25 counts, when arraigned on September 20 at the start of the trial, pleaded “not guilty” to the charges against them.
The offences for which they are being charged include being part of a criminal organisation, murder, conspiracy to murder, arson, illegal possession of firearm, and illegal possession of ammunition. Bryan is charged with, among other things, being the leader of a criminal organisation — Klansman/One Don gang.
The trial resumes at 10:00 this morning when defence attorneys will continue their examination of the witness who is one of the 42 to be called by the Crown.