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Court hears 1990 rebel attack

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Govt recalls 1990 rebel attackProsecutors in an alleged aggravated assault trial of two motorcyclists accused of wounding a police officer in the head have reminded a trial court at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia on the bitter consequences that resulted when rebel fighters “entered [Monrovia] on July 2, 1990,” saying, “They did not only look for police, but everybody.”

The two motorcyclists – defendants Howard Brooks and Eric Bentuo were jointly indicted with aggravated assault after an encounter with Police Officer David Y. Frank, on 9 February this year, who allegedly got stoned to his head in Duport Road community.

After argument on Tuesday in defense counsels’ motion filed to dismiss the indictment, Presiding Criminal Court “A” Judge Roosevelt Z. Willie on Wednesday, 27 May acquitted one of the defendants, Howard Brooks because he said prosecution filed the “wrong form of action” against him.

But the court ordered defendant Eric Bentuo to take the stand and testify because prosecutors have produced “sufficient evidence to convict” him if he did not legally resist … [the state’s evidence through testimony].

On Wednesday, both the state and defense counsels partly took exception to the court’s ruling; and also accepted the ruling in areas that were favorable to them.

Assistant Montserrado County Attorney Cllr. A. Tamba Gborie had Tuesday reminded Judge Willie of the July 2, 1990 rebel attack against Liberia, before stressing the “disgruntled” action of motorcyclists that he said needed corrections.

“May it please your honor, in 1990, July 2 when rebels entered Liberia, they looked for everybody, not only police. If we failed to take precaution… if anything happens, it will affect all of us. The issue at bar is our children are becoming disgruntled. … Motorcyclists are our children. If they go astray, we must correct them,” Cllr. Gborie said.

The rebel attack referenced by the counsel recalls the fall of slain President Samuel K. Doe when rebel forces launched assault on July 2, 1990, cutting main roads in Monrovia as most of Doe’s officials fled Liberia.

The rebels succeeded killing Doe just a little over two months into the brutal offensive launched on the capital Monrovia, following an alleged interrogation with former rebel leader Prince Y. Johnson, now Nimba County Senator over claims of money he embezzled during his rule.

Besides the February 9, 2015 motorcyclists encounter with the police in Duport Road, involving defendants Bentuo and Brooks, series of deadly riots by other motorcyclists emerged this year in Redlight and Duport Road of Paynesville, burning down police stations and strapping bare female police officers over reports that an officer had killed a bike rider.

“Are they saying that David Frank did not sustain injury? So your honor this is not a case that we are joking with….When a law is passed and they say all police people sit down for one day, this country will be lawless,” Cllr. Gborie warned.

Prosecutors argued that Officer Frank sustained a wound measured 0.9 suture in an encounter with defendants Brooks and Bentuo, while carrying on community policing with the motorcyclists.

Prosecutors claimed that Howard Brooks held Officer Frank by his uniform during a scuffle, while co-defendant Eric Bentuo injured his head from the other end with a stone.

Concluding, Cllr. Gborie stressed that young men and women were sacrificing their lives to serve the State in the police, as he wondered why anyone should think about harming them simply because they have been directed by officers to pass “this way” and “don’t go this way.”

But defense counsels asked the court to dismiss the entire indictment because prosecutors failed to prove the charge of aggravated assault.

Though the defense admitted to prosecutors’ argument that “defendant Eric Bentuo… took the stone and injured…. [Officer] David Y. Frank,” it however insisted that the charge should have been “simple assault.”

They insisted that if a group of people alleged to have committed a crime, the State must be able to prove every individual’s action.

The defense claimed that the State miserably failed to prove the case to link the defendants in the dock, pondering whether both defendants jointly held the stone and threw it at the wounded officer in question, David Frank.

The counsels contend that defendant Howard Brooks was charged wrongfully with aggravated assault, when he could have been charged with “offensive touching”.

As for the case of defendant Bentuo, who allegedly threw the rock, the defense insisted that medical Doctor testified that m Officer Frank’s mark was that of lacerations or scratch mark, arguing that it was not grievous to be attributed to aggravated assault. By Winston W. Parley – Edited Jonathan Browne

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