Criminal Court “C” Judge YamieQuiquiGbeisay has sentenced former Defense Minister J. Brownie Samukai and his deputy Joseph P. Johnson to two years suspended imprisonment, provided that they resituate the whole or substantial amount of the judgment sum within six months and stipulate restitution of the balance within 12 months.
Further, Judge Gbeisay sentences the third defendant James NyumahDorkor to a suspended six months imprisonment, provided that he resitutes his share of the judgment sum in whole or in substantial part in six months and file a stipulation to pay the balance in 12 months.
Announcing the sentences Thursday, 23 April, Judge Gbeisay recalled that the court, following a regular trial, adjudged all the three defendants guilty of the crimes of misuse of public money, a felony of the first degree, theft of property for over a million USD, a felony of the second degree, and criminal conspiracy.
The three former Defense Ministry officials had been awaiting sentencing after they were convicted through a bench trial for allegedly misusing funds generated through deducting the salaries of officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) for saving into a compulsory retirement funds account established in 2009.
Judge Gbeisay says he is suspending Samukai and Johnson’s two year sentence provided that they elect to make restitution, as failure on their part the convicts would serve the full two years sentence.
Further, Judge Gbeisay says though defendant James NyumahDorkor elected to reserve the right to the privacy of his health status, the court, consideringhis physical condition and his minor role in the commission of the crime, sentenced him to six months imprisonment.
Judge Gbeisay adds that the six month sentence for Dorkor is also suspended, but warns that failure for the defendant to restitute, he shall serve the full six months in common prison and make restitution.
The judge explains that under Chapter 50.5 and Chapter 15, Section 15.4 of the Penal Law, misuse of public money is a felony of the first degree with a maximumprison term of 10 years.
Under the provision, he says theft of property in which the value of the property exceeds 50,000.00 is a second degree felony with a maximum prison of five years respectively.
He continues that the minimum term of imprisonment not being stated, it is presumably left within the sound discretion of the trial court, giving due consideration to the fact and circumstances of the commission of the crimes and the defendants’ previous records.
Judge Gbeisay recalls that in the court’s final judgment, it ordered the restitution of US$687,656.35 to the AFL retirement funds and US$460,000.00 to the Government of Liberia’s account and further ordered the Probation Services Division of Montserrado County, to conduct a pre-sentence investigation of the defendants’ conducts and file its report with the court in 14 days, in obedience to Chapter 31.5 of the Criminal Procedure Law.
Judge Gbeisay notes that the report was filed with the Clerk of the Court, adding that the synopsis indicated that it found no previous criminal record against any of the defendants.
However, he says it concluded that the crimes as charged and proven by the State post a national security threat to the nation, considering that the money, subject of the crimes, is for men and women of the Armed Forces of Liberia.By Winston W. Parley