Attorney not notified – human smuggling trial postponed

POSTED: 09/23/11 12:51 PM

St. Maarten – “The attorney is handling the interests of his client in a sloppy way. It is detrimental that the defendant is here again without an attorney,” Public Prosecutor mr. M.L.P. Ridderbeks said yesterday afternoon in the Court in First Instance where the trial against a defendant in a human smuggling case had to be postponed because his attorney was not present.
The attorney in question however, mr. J.G. Bloem, told this newspaper yesterday that the court had not informed him that the case was on the agenda. “I could have seen it on the court schedule, that is true, but the court should have informed me.”
Bloem said that the trial of 51-year-old Jean Journel C., was postponed the first time because he had two court hearings scheduled at the same time. “The second postponement was at the request of the public prosecutor, because we had brought in a witness she wanted to prosecute for perjury. Then the case was put on the agenda for the beginning of September, but it was then moved to August 24, because the prosecutor wanted to attend the Curacao Jazz Festival. On August 24 I was not on the island and I have reported this a week before the trial date.”
mr. Bloem said that the new trial date was chosen on August 24. “But that date has not been reported to me, so I did not know it was on the agenda. I could have known if I had looked at the court schedule (the court sends this schedule routinely to all law offices – ed.) but that is not the official way to announce a trial date.”
mr. Bloem said that he had spoken with his client in June. “My plea for this case has been ready from the first trial date, and I am ready to do the case,” he said.
mr. Bloem qualified the prosecutor’s criticism as “pure nonsense,” adding that he had received an email from her on Wednesday announcing that the perjury verdict against Louis Saint Marc would be part of the procedure. “But she never mentioned the court date in that email,” Bloem said.
According to our own records, Jean Journel C.’s trial was postponed on March 31 because mr. Bloem was out with an attack of bronchitis. In June the prosecution asked for a postponement to enable it to prosecute Saint Marc for perjury. In August, mr. Bloem was off island and he did report this to the court on August 18. But his client was caught off guard when he appeared in court on August 24, saying that his attorney had not informed him about his absence.
Yesterday afternoon the court hearing was scheduled to begin at two o’clock. When mr. Bloem did not appear, prosecutor Ridderbeks and mr. S.R. Bommel, who defends a second suspect in the case, attempted to reach him in vain. “His office says they do not know where he is,” mr. Bommel told the court.
Hardly an hour later, this newspaper had no trouble getting in touch with mr. Bloem.
The defendant stuck to his wish to be assisted by an attorney and the court therefore postponed the trial until the earliest next possibility, November 9.
The second defendant, Pierre Josias N., 37, saw his case also postponed, because his attorney mr. C.H.J. Merx desisted last Friday and his new attorney mr. S.R. Bommel had not received the case file yet.
N. is accused of involvement in a human smuggling case that took place on August 14 and 15 of last year. He was involved in transporting 95 people with buses and cars to Mullet Bay where they boarded the Dieu Si Bon and other vessels that sailed to the British and US Virgin islands.
Between July 17 and 24, N. was also involved in an attempt to smuggle people illegally out of St. Maarten. That attempt failed because the boat encountered engine trouble and had to return to St. Maarten. N.’s trial was also postponed until November 9.

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