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Prosecutors act in bad faith

-Judge says in former gov’t officials’ trial

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Prosecution lawyers in the trial of former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and other co-defendants continue to upset the trial court with different excuses, with the latest on Tuesday, 18 February prompting Judge YamieQuiquiGbeisay to threaten the imprisonment of prosecutors “when such frivolous excuse is attempted” by the State.

During hearing on Tuesday, Judge Gbeisay appeared to be angered by prosecutors’ request for continuance (suspend hearing) of the case to be heard on Wednesday, 19 February because they are processing their witnesses for presentation in court.

Their request for continuance of the case on Tuesday came after the prosecution was on Monday, 17 February ordered by the court to pay a fine of US$150.00 within 24 hours for having disrespected the court or risk the arrest of the County Attorney for Montserrado Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin.

In the mind of the court, Judge Gbeisay said on Tuesday, the application of the prosecution for continuance is made in bad faith and it is intended to waste the court’s time and hinder the administration of justice.

“The Court also considers the action of the State as a clear breach of duty to perform for which they have been paid. Time is of essence to this court for the benefit of prosecution, defendants indicted and the defendants’ lawyer,” Judge Gbeisay explains.
He continues that it must be noted that the case at hand is a case of concern, warning the prosecution that “for the very last time” the court will again bend over and backward to accommodate the State.

He gives a stern warning that when such frivolous excuse is attempted, “the prosecution will be seriously reprimanded to include maximum fine this court can impose together with imprisonment,” adding that this should “be the final warning” to the state prosecutors.
The court appears unhappy with the way the prosecutors are proceeding, especially when they have more than 163 case on the docket and have prayed for the hearing of this case at hand which means they were prepared to proceed with it.

Following the issuance of these warnings, Judge Gbeisay says he reluctantly grants prosecution’s request, assigning the further hearing of the matter to Wednesday, 19 February at 9 AM at the Criminal Court “C” at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia.

Judge Gbeisay’s earlier decision to fine the prosecution on Monday was prompted by defense lawyers’ complaint that the State had failed at the time to obey court’s order to provide copy of all species of evidence to the defendants in line with the statute.

Former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai, co-defendants Joseph P. Johnson and J. NyumahDorbor and others are standing trial for allegedly embezzling funds generated in a compulsory saving scheme established in July 2009 for personnel of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) during former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf’s rule.

The regime of her predecessor President George Manneh Weah drew an indictment against the defense officials on 9 October 2019, accusing them of committing economic sabotage, theft of property, and misuse of public money, among others.

Through the compulsory savings funds, prosecutors allege that former Minister Samukai, former Deputy Defense Minister Joseph Johnson and former Defense Ministry Comptroller NyumahDorbor deducted the salaries of AFL officers from all ranks to serve as supplementary pension benefits for assistance to wounded soldiers and deceased soldiers’ families.

Over US$1.2m of the US$1.9m deposited was allegedly misapplied by Mr. Samukai, the prosecution alleges, and claims further that the defendants made themselves the only signatories to the account, leaving out the then AFL Chief of Staff and other ranking officers.By Winston W. Parley