Accused ‘Mumma’ catches COVID; ‘Clans’ case delayed until June 13 | Loop Jamaica

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The fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has derailed the trial of alleged members of the One Don faction of the Clansman gang after one of the 28 remaining defendants tested positive for the highly transmissible virus.

The prosecution was on Thursday expected to resume its response to the no-case submissions that were made by several defence attorneys seeking to have their clients acquitted of the charges that were laid against them.

However, during the roll call of the accused persons, Chief Justice Bryan Sykes was notified that defendant Stephanie ‘Mumma’ Christie was absence, as she had contracted the respiratory illness.

As a result, the matter was put off until June 13.

Last year, several of the accused persons also contracted COVID-19, resulting in the case being delayed until the individuals recovered from the illness.

The trial, which began in September of last year, has also been paused due to technological, as well as administrative, issues.

After months of marshalling evidence, the prosecution eventually completed its case on May 10.

Then ahead of the hearing of no-case submissions by the defence last Thursday, the prosecution conceded it it had insufficient evidence to prove that four of the original 33 alleged gangsters were part of the criminal organisation or had committed the related offences.

They were: Damaine Elleston, Rushane Williams, Owen Ormsby and Rivaldo Hylton. All four were subsequently freed.

On Tuesday, Sykes upheld a no-case submission from attorney Kemar Robinson for his client, Dwayne Salmon, alias ‘Chemist’, who was eventually freed of the charge of being part of a criminal organisation.

A former gangster-turned-state-witness had testified that Salmon was allegedly involved in the sale of illegal firearms to the gangsters.

The witness also claimed that Salmon repaired the weapons for the alleged gang members.

But Robinson contended that there was no evidence tying his client to the criminal organisation.

The lawyer also pointed out that his client had already been freed last week by the prosecution of the offence of illegal possession of firearm, because there was no evidence presented at the trial to justify that charge.

The judge agreed with the attorney’s submission, pointing out that the evidence that was presented by prosecutors suggested that Salmon could possibly be an independent supplier of arms to the criminal network.

Sykes said the evidence also suggested that Salmon provided gunsmith services to the criminals.

But Sykes said the evidence did not established that Salmon was loyal to the gang, or took part in any crime involving the One Don outfit.

The judge also questioned the lack of evidence from the prosecutors to prove that Salmon had an interest in the gang.

“(A) Criminal trial is a specific forum where the prosecution must show the accused committed the crime for which he is charged,” Sykes remarked.

“It is not about whether he is a criminal generally. That’s irrelevant,” he added.

In response to the judge’s remarks, prosecutors sought to make an application in a last-minute attempt to amend the indictment under which Salmon was charged. The new charge would see him being accused of knowingly providing a benefit to a criminal organisation.

In rejecting the application, Sykes argued that any amendments at that stage would result in a severe injustice to Salmon.

The judge reiterated that a criminal trial deals with specific charges that have been laid against an accused person, and said Salmon should be allowed to answer only to the charges that were laid against him at the start of the trial in September last year.

The remaining 28 accused are being tried under the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations Act), 2014, better known as the anti-gang legislation, on an indictment containing several counts.

Interestingly, six of the 25 counts under which the gangsters were charged, were removed by the prosecution because of lack of evidence.

Overall, the accused were charged with multiple other offences, including being part of a criminal organisation, illegal possession of firearm, illegal possession of ammunition, facilitating conspiracy to murder, and facilitating arson.

The offences were allegedly committed between January 1, 2015, and June 30, 2019, in St Catherine.