Witness says his house became the place of refuge for alleged gang leader and his supposed bodyguard(Illustration: Pixabay)
Klansman trial witness tells court of murder, extortion, and how he hid gangsters

After using his swanky home to host alleged members of the notorious Klansman gang, including reputed faction leader Andre “Blackman” Bryan, stash their extortion cash and their rented getaway cars, a prosecution star witness yesterday said he decided to testify against his cronies so as not to “waste the court's time”.

“Witness number two”, who took the stand for the first time yesterday and is the first witness to be called for the Crown in the trial of 33 individuals accused of being members of that gang, said he met Bryan through a friend who was a member of the ring, but who is now dead.

The witness, who said he had been incarcerated more than once on account of his dealings with the gang, stated that it was his decision to “come forward to testify against these guys” and denied that he had been made any promises or offers to do so.

According to the witness, at the first meeting, in December 2016, he did not know who Bryan was but questioned his friend about his identity because he saw how “afraid” his friend was of Bryan. He said he also knew Bryan was “superior” to his friend by the way his friend reacted to him.

“Him start move nervous, stumbling [in his talking], regular, typical afraid,” said the witness, who admitted to becoming Bryan's personal and getaway driver.

“Whole heap a time he was at my house; he was at my house actually every day. He used to sleep at my house, months... close to two years,” the witness told the court.

As to why he agreed to become Bryan's personal driver he said, “I learnt he was Andre 'Blackman' Bryan and you don't refuse a gangster.”

He further told the court that his house also became the place of refuge for Bryan's supposed bodyguard, who was reportedly hiding from the police. He said that the bodyguard had lived with Bryan at his uptown apartment on Shortwood Road in St Andrew, but had been forced to flee on account of the police searching for him.

Yesterday, the witness, who testified via video link, identified several of the accused in the dock including Bryan while outlining instances in which he interacted with them and detailing the 2017 murder of an individual identified as “Doolie” at Price Rite in Meadowbrook, St Andrew.

The witness, who said planning and orders generally took place and were given from the gang's alleged headquarters on Jones Avenue in Spanish Town, told the court that the plot for Doolie's murder was hatched at his home.

He said Doolie was killed because it was believed that he was running the Thompson Pen area, which was controlled by the faction of the gang led by incarcerated Klansman strongman Tesha Miller “and they wanted to move him”.

Doolie, the witness testified, was killed after a failed first attempt.

According to the witness, Bryan was at “my house”, in the company of a woman, when the murder was committed, and upon hearing that it had been done, said “A long time mi nuh kill sumptn” before retreating upstairs to the woman.

“They kill and murder people and extort couple communities in Spanish Town. I was part of it,” he told the court when asked why he said the individuals were a gang.

In backing his claim that Bryan was the leader he said, “He gave the orders to murder people…to us, the members of the gang”.

The witness, who said he had been the banker for the gang, told the court that he, under Bryan's instructions, retrieved extortion monies of between $80,000 and $100,000 daily from the section of the bus park in Spanish Town controlled by Bryan.

He said monies were also collected from a community behind the bus park and the Torpedo Loan Company located in Spanish Town, which also has outlets across the island. This, he said, amounted to $150,000 per month. He said another $200,000 per month was collected from an entity, but told the court he did not wish to name it due to security concerns and “powerful people”.

All monies collected, he claimed, were stashed in his refrigerator and used to “buy gun and gunshot, and pay lawyer fee” as well as buy food, pay for rental cars and to give to members of the gang who made their requests for funds through Bryan.

The witness, who left off detailing another murder in 2017 of an individual called “Outlaw”, is to continue giving his evidence when the trial resumes at 10:00 am today in the Home Circuit Division of the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston before Chief Justice Bryan Sykes.

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 Monday, 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.

In 2019, Tesha Miller, leader of the other faction of the gang, was convicted for orchestrating the 2008 murder of then Jamaica Urban Transit Company Chairman Douglas Chambers. Blackman, the alleged hitman then, was acquitted of the killing in 2016.

Police say the splintered gang, which has a membership said to number around 400, has wreaked havoc in the parish of St Catherine and has connections in neighbouring islands and elsewhere overseas.

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Senior staff reporter dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

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