The Criminal Court “A” in Monrovia has acquitted opposition lawmaker Rep. YekehKolubah of a charge of kidnapping, ruling Wednesday, 6 May at the Temple of Justice that there is doubt in prosecution’s evidence based on the legal principle of vicarious liability.
Prosecutors used the legal principle of vicarious liability to claim that bodyguards of Mr. Kolubah, a staunch critic of President George Manneh Weah in the House of Representatives, had acted on the lawmaker’s instruction to kidnap and brutalize Emmanuel Freeman for refusing a T – Shirt printed to protest against the regime.
But Kolubah insists he had no hand in what transpired between Freeman and the bodyguards, as the lawmaker and his witness Mohammed S. Kaba narrate that the incident occurred while the bodyguards including state witness Abu Keita were trying to retrieve from Freeman, witness Kaba’s stolen phone based on the latter’s request.
Under the legal principle of vicarious liability, Judge Roosevelt Willie rules that for an accused to be held liable under this principle, there must exist three critical elements.
Explaining the three critical elements of vicarious liability, Judge Willie states that there must be a relationship of employer and employee; a tortious act of negligence must be committed; and the act must be committed within the course of employment.
From the facts and circumstances in the case, Judge Willie finds that Rep. Kolubah’s bodyguards did not commit the act in their course of duty. Besides, the judge notes that the government did not disprove or rebutt testimonies by Rep. Kolubah and witness Mohammed S. Kaba that the lawmaker’s bodyguards acted on their own based on the order from their friend Mohammed S. Kaba.
“As earlier stated, the failure of the Prosecution to have disproved Defendant Yekeh Kolubah and Mohammed S. Kaba averments as herein above stated creates doubt on the Prosecution’s theory of vicarious liability, for which the Defendant should be held for the crime of Kidnapping,” the judge rules.
According to Judge Willie, prosecution failed to rebut defense witness Kaba’s testimony that state witness Abu Keita is his friend, and that Keita knew that his (Kaba’s) samsung galaxy note phone valued US$850, being assigned to Kaba by his employer Plan International Liberia.
Judge Willie continues that prosecution should have called Keita to rebut Rep. Kolubah’s statement that while Abu Keita and others were in police detention, Keita called him (lawmaker), informing him that they were being detained because Freeman got hurt while they were assisting their friend Kaba to retrieve his phone from the victim.The judge determines that the true reason why Freeman was kidnapped was for an alleged stolen phone.
To further authenticate the issue of theft, Judge Willie recalls that prosecution’s second witness Naomi Johnson who was sitting with Freeman when the group shouted at Freeman: “Where is the Iphone you stole,” informed the court that she told the group of men including Abu Keita that the stolen phone matter was not for them to handle, but for the police.
After securing separate trial, Kolubah became a lone defendant in the case because prosecution nolleprosequi his co- indictees Abu Keita, Johnson Kpor, Oliver Kanneh, Levi Blackie, Mohammed S. Kabah, Mohammed A. Kabah and Frank O. Morgan and subsequently used the bodyguards as state witnesses against the opposition lawmaker.
Following Kolubah’s request for acquittal in the middle of the trial in April, Judge Roosevelt Z. Willie dropped almost all the charges in the indictment including aggravated assault, criminal attempt to commit murder, criminal solicitation and criminal facilitation, leaving only the charge of kidnapping which the State also fails to prove.
Kolubah’s lawyers insist that prosecution presented about 10 witnesses throughout the trial of the case who have failed to prove that he was linked to kidnapping Freeman.
Interviewed by journalists following the ruling, Solicitor General SyreniusCephas says the prosecution is not bitter about the court’s ruling on the kidnapping charge and they cannot appeal against it after a full trial.
However, he says they already have an appeal before the Supreme Court against the judge’s initial decision dropping multiple charges against Rep. Kolubah, saying the matter is not over yet, but it has just begun. Yekeh’s supporters were seen jubilating outside the court after the ruling as he walked out in victory.
By Winston W. Parley