Trouble is increasing daily against ruling Unity Party Chair Sen. H. Varney G. Sherman, as five of his lawyers came down guilty of contempt on Tuesday with L$10,000 fine each in less than a day after losing a major battle against submitting his bank statement to a Special Investigative Taskforce.
“The returns also reveal that the defendants requested the sheriff to search on the computers and Laptops, which the sheriff informed them that he was not computer literate, therefore he would rather bring the Laptop to the court. The defendants again refused…,” the Monrovia Magisterial Court said on Tuesday, 31 May.
The court says failure on the part of the guilty lawyers to pay the fines respectively, bring receipts and those computers and other items named in the writ brought immediately to the court, they will be incarcerated at the Monrovia Central Prison for three days.
Before Sen. Sherman’s lawyers were found guilty of contempt, the Grand Cape Mount County lawmaker had already been indicted along with House Speaker Alex Tyler and few others for alleged over US$950,000 bribes received from U.K.-based Sable Mining to change Liberian laws in its favor.
After arguments in the contempt proceedings at the City Court on Tuesday morning, Magistrate J. Kennedy Peabody ruled that Cllr. G. Moses Paegar – President of the Liberia National Bar and Managing Director of the Sherman and Sherman Law Firm and his team were guilty of contempt.
The lawyers include Cllrs. Albert Sims, Golda Elliott, Frank Musa Dean and Cyril Jones, who according to Cllr. Paegar, was not in the country at the time of the hearing due to his bereavement. The contempt proceeding results from the sheriff’s report that after serving the Sherman and Sherman Law firm a search and seizure warrant secured by the Taskforce on 23 May, “the search was partially conducted,” claiming to have only “searched the filing cabinets.”
The court said in the search and seizure warrant issued items to be seized included communications such as print and electronic, laptops and records of any form relative to the Public Procurement and Concession Commission or PPCC Act.
But the sheriff claimed that upon arrival at Sen. Sherman’s residence, large crowds of Unity Party partisans prevented the search and seizure before proceeding to the Law firm where he did not also find what was stated in the writ.
The sheriff accused the lawyers of refusing to allow the laptops and computers brought to court on grounds that they contained other documents and that “these laptops were not pertaining to the Sable Mining Company.”
When the court issued a writ of contempt against the lawyers, Judge Peabody said the counsels filed their returns with argument that “at no time did they obstruct the search & seizure as alleged by the sheriff…”
The lawyers claimed to have cooperated with the sheriff, contending that the sheriff had access to the filing cabinets that contained some files named in the search and seizure warrant.
They however said because the sheriff carried “a third party on the premises, which they did not approve”, led to the sheriff not conducting the search. But lawyers appointed to speak for the court referred to as Amecu Currie or friends of the court, including Cllrs. Jimmy Pierre and Rose B. James cited Rule One and Two of the Moral and Ethical conduct that control all lawyers.
They requested the court that if their colleagues did obstruct the search and seizure as had been alleged by the sheriff, they should be held in contempt. After all of the arguments, the court determined that the lawyers were simply trying to protect the interest of their client, though it noted that in so doing, they should have known that they also hold the court the greater responsibility.
Sen. Sherman who faces charges of bribery, criminal conspiracy, economic sabotage, criminal solicitation and criminal facilitation at Court “C” has also announced an appeal against Criminal Court “A” judgment for commercial banks to produce bank statements of him and former Senate President Pro Tempore Mr. Cletus Wortorson.
By Winston W. Parley-Editing by Jonathan Browne