Snowflake cocaine trial may still go ahead after May hearing

POSTED: 03/24/11 12:50 PM

Lawyers outraged about prosecution’s changed position

St. Maarten – The Snowflake-trial against two brothers and two other suspects took an unexpected turn yesterday when the public prosecutor made an about face by asking the court to ignore an earlier request to declare the prosecution inadmissible. “Unbelievable,” “forgery is a crime,” and “the public prosecutor’s office is bound by expectations it created” were some of the expressions defense lawyers used in a first reaction.

Judge Mr. M. Keppels decided to postpone the trial until May 26. On that day she will rule on the request by defense lawyers to declare the prosecution inadmissible, and on the prosecutor’s request to go ahead with the trial. In the meantime, the Judge ended the preventive custody of all four suspects. They are charged with transporting 623 kilos of cocaine from Colombia via St. Maarten to the Netherlands.

During an earlier court hearing on December 14, then prosecutor Mr. J.M. Mul asked the court to declare the prosecution inadmissible, after his office had discovered that a report in the case file had been antedated. Mul said that his office holds police reports to “the highest standards” and that their contents must be correct.

Yesterday prosecutor Mr. L. Angela admitted that the disputed report had been antedated, but he also called the document “unnecessary” and the result of “an unfortunate concurrence of circumstances.” To stress the limited value of the report, Angela said, “It is a cosmetic document that does not contain any evidence. Its content and the intention with which it was written were not aimed at damaging the interests of the defense. It should never have been written.”

At the same time, Angela called the antedated report “a disgrace” because police reports should not contain mistakes. He indicated that the national detective agency is still examining the document for factual mistakes.

The prosecution presented a thick file folder about the disputed report to the court and to the defense attorneys. He asked the court to postpone the case until May 26 and to deal on that date with the actual charges against the defendants.

But the three defense attorneys strongly disagreed with the prosecutor. “It is incomprehensible what is happening here,” Mr. M. Vaders, the attorney of 38-year old Elmer Nicandro Virgilio M. said. “The prosecution has created expectations among the defendants. Suddenly we are talking about repairable procedural mistakes, there is nothing wrong. The prosecutor is now making a different demand, while he already made his demand in December. This must result in declaring the prosecution inadmissible.”

Mr. R.M. Stomp, the attorney of Michael Jean E., 35, the only of the four defendants who actually appeared in court yesterday, used even stronger language to condemn the prosecution. “Antedating occurs regularly in St. Maarten,” he said with a reference to the Brooks Tower Accord scandal. “It is forgery and that is a crime. This has been done by someone from the Netherlands. It tarnishes the public prosecutor’s office’s reputation. How serious does it take itself?”

Stomp pointed out that the public prosecutor’s office is one and indivisible, and that it is responsible for its own actions. “The spuriousness of the report’s content has not been established yet. The prosecutor is shedding crocodile tears over this, but the legal order is shocked do to the actions of a perjured detective who has been sent back to the Netherlands. His mistake is now suddenly covered with the cloak of charity.”

Presenting the file on the disputed report as the prosecutor did – by handing the file at the hearing to the court and to the defense attorneys – is also negligent, Stomp said. He asked for an immediate ruling from the court to declare the prosecution inadmissible.

Mr. S.R. Bommel, the attorney for the brothers Hector Miguel and Rodolfo A. concurred with her colleagues. “To our complete surprise we received a letter from the prosecutor’s office a couple of days ago saying that this is a repairable procedural mistake,” she said. When the government creates expectations it has to stand by them. The prosecutor also has only one opportunity to present his case. Making different demands a second time is at odds with proper procedures. On December 14 this report was crucial, and now it suddenly isn’t anymore.”

Bommel also asked the court to declare the prosecution immediately inadmissible, but Judge Keppels did not go along. She set the date for the next hearing at May 26. That day she will take a decision about the admissibility of the prosecution. Depending on that decision a trial date will be set for later in the year.


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