No life sentences but acquittal, Vesuvius-attorney Brooks demands Jones and Richardson maintain innocence

POSTED: 12/16/13 4:29 PM

St. Maarten – Acquittal from all charges. That is the position of attorney Brenda Brooks for gang leader Omar Jones and his hitman Carlos Richardson. On Friday, Brooks presented her four-hour long plea in the Common Court of Justice. Jones and Richardson are the main suspects in the Vesuvius-investigation. The Court in First Instance sentenced the men to life imprisonment for the murders of Miguel Arrindell on May 25, Rodolfo Arrindell on July 7, and Eric Lake and Kevin Gumbs on August 17 of the year 2011. Additional charges include attempted murder on Omax Bye and Kennedy Fergus on April 20, firearm possession and membership of a criminal organization. The court will pronounce its verdict this Friday, December 20.

At the end of another long day in court both Jones and Richardson claimed their innocence. “I find it unfair that I have been sitting here already for so long for something I have not done,” Jones said. Richardson: “This is all bullshit. I am not involved in any of this, and I want to go back to my family.” Both men have been detained since their arrest on November 16, 2011.

According to Brooks the prosecution has built a case against her clients by cherry-picking through the available evidence and by ignoring possible alternative scenarios. The prosecution considers all murders revenge for the killing of Jones brother Amador on April 16, 2011 by – allegedly – Kittitian Omax Bye, who is currently awaiting extradition to St. Maarten in a prison cell in his home country.

The prosecutions claim is that Amador Jones stole ten kilos of cocaine from a competing gang led by Miguel Arrindell and that the Jones-gang demanded a “criminal tax” for the return of the merchandise. Arrindell refused to pony up and instead sent a killer after Amador Jones.

Arrindell got a taste of his own medicine on May 25, 2011 – a day before he was scheduled to appear in court as a suspect in the Snowflake-trial – a case that involves hundreds of kilos of cocaine. Attorney Brenda Brooks told the court that Arrindell owed millions of dollars to Colombian drug dealers and that it is very well possible that they orchestrated his murder.

Brooks put into the question the use of anonymous witnesses by the prosecution. “More than 200 witnesses were heard and the conviction of my clients relies heavily on the statements of six anonymous witnesses,” Brooks said.

The use of special investigation methods – like the recording of conversations between Jones and co-defendant Erno Labega while they were stuck in a presumed broken down police van in Aruba – has no legal basis, Brooks argued. She asked the court to exclude statements obtained through these methods, as well as statements from anonymous witnesses the defense had for various reasons been unable to interview, from evidence. She also criticized witness statements that had been taken in January 2012, after the local media had extensively reported about the investigation.

Brooks also revisited procedural issues with the summonses of her clients and asked the court to declare the prosecution inadmissible, to exclude evidence, or to give her clients a sentence reduction.

“There had been an infringement on our rights to hear anonymous witnesses,” Brooks said. “We also wanted to hear Fergus and Bye but the prosecutor’s office has made insufficient efforts to hear these witnesses in St. Kitts.”

Brooks went into the minute details of each case and she found in none of them legal and convincing evidence for the guilt or even the involvement of her clients. She said that there is no proof that her clients were at the crime scenes of the various execution-style killings.

Brooks dismissed the allegation that Regina Labega had given Omar Jones a false alibi for the shooting at the Tan Tan supermarket on April 20. “He was at her house, mourning the death of his brother,” she said. “And Jones went by himself to the police to ask them why they were looking for him – and they detained him.”

Carlos Richardson was not in Cole Bay when Miguel Arrindell was murdered, Brooks said. Her explanation for the presence of Richardson’s DNA in the car that was used for this murder was rather opaque: “Would somebody who is so smart leave his DNA in a car and then dump it at the place where Amador was murdered? The DNA of Franklin Ash was also found in the car, but he is not standing trial in this case.”

Stronger was the attorney’s theory that other scenarios for the murder are possible. She said that at the time of the murder Brian Christina was in the vicinity together with Eric Lake and Mario York. “They were on the way to rip someone,” Brooks noted. “and Miguel owed millions to the Colombians.” She furthermore revealed that Eric Lake had a relationship with Arrindell’s girlfriend, something of which the latter was unaware.

Brooks continued with the claim that there is no proof that Richardson and Jones were in Fort Willem when Rodolfo Arrindell was shot on July 7, 2011, and she asked the court to acquit her clients of this charge as well. For the so-called Cats-case – the murder of Eric lake and Kevin Gumbs on August 17, 2011 – Brooks also said that there is no proof that Jones ordered the hit and that Richardson executed it. “We have no idea why these murders happened. There is absolutely no link between the victims and the murder of Amador Jones.” She added that one anonymous witness has stated that ratty (Andrew Davis) was one of the shooters in this case, and that Carlos Richardson had an alibi for the time of the killings.

About the firearm possession charges, Brooks said that two weapons belonged to the deceased grandfather of Jones and that he had had permits for them, She said that charging her clients with membership of a criminal organization is quite far-fetched. “How is it possible to be a member of a criminal organization if you are not on speaking terms with some of its members?” she said.

The by now infamous pyramid Andrew Davis filled with names during interrogation – and that shows Omar Jones as the gang leader – is not credible, Brooks said. “They asked Davis who the friends were of Omar Jones. They never spoke about a chain of command. That was done by the RST. There is no evidence to substantiate the existence of a criminal organization.”

At the end of her plea, Brooks addressed a possible life sentence. She referred to the Vinter-arrest of the European Human Rights Court, the ruling by the Common Court that overturned the life sentences of the regatta-killers Sherwan Roberts and Curtley Allison Richards, and to the decision by the Constitutional Court of St. Maarten that ordered the government in November to take all references to life imprisonment out of the draft criminal code. “For life sentences, the possibility of review and the prospect of release does not exist din St. Maarten, she concluded.

“We have been transparent, controllable and accountable,” Solicitor-General Taco Stein said in his rebuttal. He dismissed complaints about the use of undercover agents and about taping conversations between Jones and Erno Labega while they were sitting in a police van on Aruba. “We acted according to the guidelines of the attorney-general. As for the undercover agents (who spent time in a police cell with Carlos Richardson – ed.) is concerned, that did not yield any evidence.”

Stein pointed out that statements from anonymous witnesses have not been used as the only evidence against the defendants. “There was also supporting evidence.” Stein chided Brooks for naming an anonymous witness by name in open court. “You take an enormous risk when you identify somebody as a threatened anonymous witness. By doing that you are taking on an enormous responsibility.”

For obvious reasons, this newspaper refrains from publishing the name Brooks mentioned.

Stein also was not impressed by the alternative scenarios Brooks presented. “If you make that claim it has to be supported by evidence that this could be the case,” he said. “right now these scenarios are nothing more than a collection of assumptions.”

The solicitor-general was upset with the suggestion that the prosecutor’s office supposedly made a deal with co-defendant Andrew Davis who has made incriminating statements against Jones and Richardson. “We don’t do deals here,” he said. “You cannot make statements like that, unless you investigate them.”

Stein maintained that a life sentence in St. Maarten does not violate the European Human rights treaty.

Attorney Brooks concluded that there is “too much reasonable doubt.”

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