THERE is a baker, a welder, labourers, a tiling apprentice, a chef, car wash operator, stone mason, and furniture maker in the docks among the 28 now facing trial for crimes committed by the Klansman gang, but no shooters, contract killers, getaway car drivers, foot soldiers or bodyguards, according to the very accused themselves.
Denials flowed aplenty from the docks in courtrooms one and two of the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston on Wednesday as the accused made full use of their day in the sun with 21 giving unsworn statements, two making sworn statements, and two choosing to remain silent.
By the end of those statements all who spoke had declared that they were not responsible for any of the serious crimes ranging from murder to extortion on the 25-count indictment brought by the Crown at the start of the trial in September last year.
In fact, several of the accused said they did not know the main witnesses; two former gang members turned Crown witnesses, others said they had merely made their acquaintance in passing, while others described Crown Witness Number One as a gambling womaniser and Crown Witness Number two as a peddler of contraband cigarettes.
On Wednesday, Kalifa Williams, one of the only two accused to give sworn evidence, in rubbishing the claims that he was a top shooter, said he had never laid eyes on alleged leader of the gang Andre “Blackman” Bryan until he was in custody in 2019. He further said he did not know Witness Number One and saw him for the first time when he appeared in court via video link in 2021.
Williams, breathing heavily into the microphone, denied ever speaking to the witness over the telephone, saying he was only familiar with four of the other defendants on trial, and this was because they were from the same community. Under cross-examination by prosecutors, Williams denied that he went by the alias Baba, stating that Kalifa Williams is his name, and denied that he carried out contract killings for the gang.
The accused Daniel McKenzie, in his unsworn statement, said he was a tiling apprentice from the Cooreville Gardens community in St Andrew and had never frequented any of the areas said to be the stomping ground of the gang.
He further said he had “never owned or used a gun” nor conspired to kill anyone. McKenzie also said he did not “know half of these men [he] was charged with”.
On Wednesday, accused Michael Whitely, in disputing that he knew Witness Number Two or had visited his home where he stood guard for Bryan, declared that this was unlikely as the “uptown garrison” community that the witness lived in was not one that allowed for outsiders to roam at will.
Arguing that even to pick mangoes that hung over a fence would require ringing a buzzer to get access to the property the fruits hung from, he said his knowledge had been gleaned from being a member of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs and visiting because his ‘sponsor’ lived there.
“When dem seh mi up dere so a guard fi Blackman, I don’t know up dere so. Reneto Adams di policeman him live up dere so, My Lord, mi naw go up dere so, if yuh go up dere so, police haffi ketch dem man deh. My Lord, is in di sponsor time I go up here,” Whitely insisted.
On claims that he provided security for the Lauriston community, he declared, “Me cannot hold off man or police, Lauriston have ‘bout five entrance.”
“I am a chef, me have a restaurant, me a cook from me 15 years old…I don’t in no gang, just food shop, My Lord, that’s it yuh hear, My Lord,”
And the accused Pete Miller evoked much mirth during his unsworn statement as he in his white skinny jeans and floral shirt strutted from the docks so the trial judge could determine if his leg was bent or not, as said by the witness, who had attempted to describe Miller to prove he knew him.
Said Miller after he returned to the dock, “I am not the don for Waterloo Lane. I don’t know what the witness talking about.” He added that he had been in and out of custody after being picked up by the police on several occasions.
His brother Marco Miller, who is also on trial, in his own unsworn statement, said he was employed to his mother’s shop and declared that he was neither a don nor top tier member for the gang.
“He seh me and mi bredda deh pon basketball court; killing two man, that is a lie. Me and my brother never deh one place, my bredda did deh a jail,” Miller said, insisting that the witness had made up the story to “try fi sink mi”.
“Your Honour, I could never be part of this gang; from a tender age growing up I hear seh Klansman kill my father,” he stated.
In the meanwhile, 34-year-old accused Dwight Hall, in his defence, said he was a welder and baker, and denied knowing Bryan or conspiring to commit any crimes.
Accused Lamar Simpson, who said he was a construction worker, told the court that his moniker “Sick Head” was earned because of his football prowess. Simpson, who stated he was “no top tier member” of the gang, said he was hearing of that role for the first time over the course of the trial and described himself as a law-abiding citizen who had never owned or held a gun.
“I am no don for no community, I am a man who has to stand for my family,” Simpson who spoke tremulously while “begging” the judge “to be merciful” and find him not guilty as he was worried about the welfare of his family.
Meanwhile, accused Karl Beech said he only knew of the Crown’s second witness as a peddler of “lockup [unopened] ackees” and “bandooloo [illegal] cigarettes”. Beech, who said he was a stone mason told the court “a whole heap a kerb wall mi run inna Lauriston, everybody know me…if dem tell yuh seh mi walk all ‘bout and drink rum, a me dat. From my lady drop out a my ting dat, m nuh know bout no gang ting… Your Honour, a stone work mi do, anything yuh want…mi do it,” he stated.
Yet another accused Donovan Richards, in an unsworn statement, told the court he was a higgler who was preoccupied with his mother’s “health problem”, his business, and taking care of his “three kids”.
“I am not in any gang or involved in any criminal organisation”, he said.
Accused Tareek James said he was employed to a wholesale at the front of Jones Avenue, and declared that he had never laid eyes on the alleged leader of the Klansman gang until he began building a studio in the area.
“I never saw that man before, never even spoke to him; this is all a surprise to me,” he said gesticulating while telling the judge that his boombox in his cell constantly blares lyrics which say “all I want is my jeans and all I want is my freedom”, adding that he didn’t not know even “quarter” of his co-accused.
The sole female amongst the 28, in her fervently delivered unsworn statement described herself as a “businesswoman and entrepreneur” who is “known by many as a people person”. According to Stephanie Christie, alias Mumma, she cared for the elderly and young people by getting them into schools. She told the court that she also spearheaded community sports days and a major get-together which was so recognised it attracted sponsorship from several big-name companies.
“I am not part of any gang, I am a people person, I jump around and help everybody,” Christie said. She added that she knew Bryan because she “grew up” with him and attended the same high school, but emphasised that she was employed to a stationery store and a cereal making company at the time before her arrest.
Christie denied knowing witness Number One, who had testified that she was a high-ranking member of the gang for longer than seven months. She went on further to point out that she only knew “about six of them”, arguing vociferously that if there was indeed a criminal organisation, and if she ranked as highly in the structure as the witness said, she would have known more of the members.
“I never go nowhere to commit no crime, that’s it M’Lord,” she ended stridently.
Joseph McDermott, alias Papa, the man Witness Number One had told the court stood guard for the back entrance to the gang’s headquarters and had requested the skull of a victim to “drink blood” from, sought to set the record straight in his unsworn statement.
“I am a Rastafarian, I praise Selassie. I do not consume blood, M’Lord, I am a vegetarian,” the accused stated, while disputing that he stood guard branding it “a fabrication”.
“I am not a part of any criminal organisation; in fact, there is no [such] criminal organisation, M’Lord,” McDermott said.
And Andre Golding, the man said to drive the infamous “duppy trucks” which are cars used to transport people involved in murders and shootings for the gang, said he was not capable of doing either shootings or drive-by as he didn’t even have a driver’s licence.
The matter continues this morning at 10.