Joint Court wraps up four days of Vesuvius hearings

PHILIPSBURG - The four-day hearing in the Vesuvius appeals came to an end Friday with the second round of remarks by the Solicitor-General and defence lawyers. Before Court President Jurjen de Haan closed the sittings at Belair Community Centre, the suspects maintained their innocence during their last words.
The Vesuvius-case involves four murders, two attempted murders, firearm possession and membership in a criminal organisation.
The crimes were committed between April and August 2011 against the backdrop of a war between two gangs involved in the drug trade.
The crimes include the attempted murder of Omax Bay and Kennedy Fergus on April 20, 2011 in Dutch Quarter, the murder of Miguel Arrindell in Cole Bay on May 25, 2011, the murder of Arrindell's brother Rodolfo on Fort Willem Road on July 7, 2011 and the killing of Eric Lake and Kevin Gumbs in Madame Estate on August 17, 2011.
During Friday's sitting of the Appeals Court, Solicitor-General Taco Stein first responded to the lawyers' pleadings in the cases of suspects Erno Labega (30), Ekron "Soca" Morgan (36) and Charles "Duduck" Fleming (38).
The Solicitor General qualified Fleming as a person who got "cold feet" and had tried to retract incriminating statements made to the police when confronted with these statements in front of the Court of Appeals. The Court of First Instance had sentenced Fleming to five years on November 15, 2012.
The evidence presented by the Solicitor General to prove that the three abovementioned suspects were involved in aiding and abetting in the attempted murder of Bye and Fergus was largely based on Fleming's statements.
Fleming had told the police that persons belonging to the entourage of main suspect Omar Jones, who is facing a life sentence, had come together to go "on the lookout" for Bye. They held this person with the nickname "Mad Max" responsible for the murder of Jones' brother Amador, who was shot and killed April 16, 2011.
Stein refuted allegations made by suspect Morgan that the police had obtained evidence through paid informers.
The Solicitor-General also stated defence lawyers were using outdated jurisprudence and "too narrow" definitions of a criminal organisation.
The defendants are being accused of membership in a criminal organisation, allegedly named "Coming in Deadly" (CID).
According to the Prosecutor's Office, Jones was the "undisputed" leader of this group, seconded by Labega, who possibly also led his own organisation. Carlos Richardson, who may also be sentenced for life, was the alleged hit man, carrying out the "dirty work."
Morgan was the group's drug transport organiser, whereas Doniel Thomas involved with car theft and the storage of weapons. Fleming allegedly played a lesser role in the organisation, following Labega's orders, in the Solicitor-General's view.
Speaking on behalf of their respective clients Morgan, Labega and Fleming, attorneys Ralph Richardson, Peggy-Ann Brandon and Safira Ibrahim largely elaborated on their previous statements.
All three lawyers maintained that that the evidence as presented by the Prosecutor's Office should be dismissed, and their clients acquitted of all charges.
Attorneys Richardson and Brandon both stressed the point that the Solicitor-General's interpretation of telecom data should be dismissed as being incorrect.
Brandon claimed that Labega was held in detention for two years "for nothing," because there was no evidence against him on any charge.
"Family relations and a criminal record do not make one member in a criminal organisation," Brandon said, pointing at the fact that Labega and Jones are related.
Ibrahim claimed that mistakes were made in the official police reports containing statements of her client. Fleming claimed the statements were incorrect, but the Solicitor-General still found these as reliable.
"I got nothing to do with none of this," Fleming said about the allegations in his last statement.
The hearings of main suspects Jones and Richardson are to be resumed with the lawyers' pleadings on Friday, December 13. The Appeals Court is expected to present its decisions in the cases of Morgan, Thomas, Fleming and Labega on Friday, December 20.
The appeal of suspect Andrew Davis (32), who was sentenced to nine years, will be heard on February 27, 2014, it was decided Friday. The hearing in this case was postponed by three months to allow Davis' new lawyer, Jason Rogers, sufficient time to prepare his client's defence.
(The Daily Herald)

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