Bomi County Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe and Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon have both filed separate lawsuits before the Civil Law Court in Monrovia demanding millions of dollars awards for damages following a street battle between the two officials early this month.
Through an action of damages for defamation and slander dated 12 September, Rep. Snowe is seeking US$1.5m “punitive, compensatory and pecuniary damages for defamation” from Mr. Fahngon.
But Fahngon too has also filed a lawsuit dated 21 September for “damages for wrong” against the leadership and members of the House of Representatives of which Mr. Snowe is a member, demanding US$2.5m for being disgraced and embarrassed by the House.
Rep. Snowe and Mr. Fahngon were locked down in a street encounter on the night of 7 September when the lawmaker sough to release from police custody legislative staff Kelvin D.J. Mattaldi who Fahngon accused of photographing him while dancing at an entertainment center.
According to Mr. Snowe’s complaint, he had received a text from Kelvin on 7 September, informing him that he had been arrested on order of Mr. Fahngon for photographing him (Fahngon).
Snowe says he was asked by Kelvin to help facilitate his release from a police depot in Congo Town; but officers there refused to do so on Fahngon’s order.
According to Snowe, he then asked Fahngon to return to the police station with Kelvin’s phone, but Fahngon allegedly began ranting invectives at him and berating him, saying Kelvin’s phone was in the possession of the National Security Agency (NSA).
Snowe adds that Fahngon returned to the police station with several persons and began aggravating the situation with continuous insults.
With alleged malice and intent to tarnish his reputation, Snowe complains that Fahngon launched a live video on social media (Facebook), ranting at him, damning him and making several accusations of criminal behavior against him including obstruction of justice and assaulting of police officers.
Additionally, Snowe claims that Fahngon’s live video carried on his Facebook page on the internet was seen and watched by millions of people in and out of Liberia, viewed over 102,000 times and shared by more than 2,000 persons in and out of Liberia.
“With Defendant’s page alone having 16,000 followers and 4,900 friends, he knew that his platform would quadruple in spreading said harmful accusations about Plaintiff to millions of people,” Snowe complains.
Due to the alleged video, Snowe says his colleagues here and counterparts from the ECOWAS Parliament are seeking clarification from him regarding Fahngon’s reckless comments made against him.
But Fahngon is also complaining to the Civil Law Court that members of the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to jail him apparently [due to his] refusal to answer any question [from House Speaker Bhofal Chambers during a contempt hearing that grew out of this drama] on 12 September.
Fahngon says, the House invited him through letters on 10 and 11 September to appear with his boss Eugene Nagbe to provide reasons for his alleged willful resolve to rain insults on Rep. Snowe physically and on the social media.
During the contempt hearing at the House, Fahngon says he informed the presiding officer [Speaker Chambers] that he would like to speak through his legal counsel, but the presiding officer refused.
According to Fahngon, Speaking Chambers noted that the House’s rules and procedures do not allow lawyers to speak during such hearings.
Fahngon concludes that his apparent refusal to answer any question from the presiding officer led members of the House to vote overwhelmingly to jail him.
He says he was disgraced and handcuffed before hundreds of people including journalists who took his photos and posted them on Facebook.
Fahngon says he was disgraced nationally and internationally before his family, friends, including his wife, children and his ailing mother who suffered a relapse when she was informed about her son Fahngon’s fate.
Fahngon says the lawmakers must be held liable and the court must award him not less than US$2.5m for the disgrace, humiliation, embarrassment, mental anguish, distress and torture he and his family suffered.
For Snowe’s complaint, there is a written instruction that Fahngon appears with his answer on or before 22 September; while for Fahngon’s complaint, a written direction instructs that the House appears on 1 October.
By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah