Outline of some evidence in One Don trial ahead of Monday’s summation Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

After much delay, all eyes and ears will be on the beginning highly anticipated summation of the trial of alleged members of the One Don faction of the Clansman gang by Chief Justice Bryan Sykes, which is scheduled to begin on Monday.

That part of the court proceedings in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston is to be streamed live on YouTube via the Jamaican Judiciary’s channel, starting at 10am.

The Court Administration Division (CAD) previously advised that the summation was scheduled for the Michealmas Term of the court, however, that date was amended to allow additional time to review the volume of evidence that was presented in the case.

Sykes is presiding over the trial which began on September 20, 2021.

The defence wrapped up its final arguments in the case in September of last year.

A total of 27 defendants remain on trial, with the only accused who was on bail, Andre ‘Bolo’ Smith, having been shot and killed on Hagley Park Road in St Andrew on Wednesday, August 10, 2022.

Initially, 33 defendants were on trial, but five others were freed due to insufficient evidence being presented against them, while Smith was later killed.

The remaining accused, including the alleged gang leader, Andre ‘Blackman’ Bryan, 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, including murder and arson.

The offences were allegedly committed between January 1, 2015 and June 30, 2019, mainly in St Catherine, with at least one murder being committed in St Andrew.

In relation to the case, it should be quite a task for Sykes to go through the months of evidence that were heard in what some observers have described as one of the longest trials in Jamaica’s history.

The prosecution relied heavily on the evidence of two former gangsters-turned-state-witnesses, a man who labelled himself as the gang’s banker and Bryan’s driver, and another who claimed he was the second-in-command of the gang, and worked with undercover detectives to make secret cell phone recordings of the gangsters speaking of their alleged deeds.

In his testimony in October 2021, the gang’s banker outlined the alleged criminal network’s organisational structure to the court, which had the top-tier members being followed by foot soldiers, community dons, then killers.

Top-tier members of the gang, the witness explained, were “gangsta more than gangsta”, seemingly meaning having more significance to the organisation than the regular gangster.

The witness testified that based on the allegation that St Thomas pastor, Stephanie Christie, alias ‘Mumma’, the lone female defendant, was in charge of the gang’s business affairs, she would be considered as a top-tier member, meaning a gangster higher than foot soldiers.

Foot soldiers were gangsters who were responsible for killing people and carrying out other duties for the gang, according to the male witness.

Concerning Christie’s other roles as a top-tier member, the witness claimed that she would communicate with the police “if there is a problem” with gangsters, and go to the police and find out the nature of the problem.

Further, the woman would allegedly deliver “sensitive” messages on behalf of Bryan if he wished not to speak on the phone, among other roles.

Other top-tier gang members, the witness claimed, were Kevaughn Green, said to be Bryan’s brother, and men known by the aliases ‘Sick Head’, ‘Cubby’, ‘Andrew Phang’, and ‘Hoggist’.

Of note, men such as ‘Mackerel’, ‘Taurus’ and ‘Frazzle’ were considered top-tier gangsters, but they are now deceased, the witness revealed at the time.

In relation to foot soldiers, he told the court that some of those gangsters were more respected than others, based on the number of people they had killed.

One popular foot soldier, the witness told the court, was accused Dylon McLean, who was also allegedly the gang leader’s bodyguard. Another accused, Joseph McDermott, was also named as a foot soldier.

The next tier of the Clansman-One Don gang incorporated the community dons.

Otherwise, the gang’s supposed banker testified that Bryan had reportedly laughed when he got a call and relayed to the alleged gang leader that a man known as ‘Outlaw’ has been killed.

The ex-gangster told the court that Bryan had ordered the murder of ‘Outlaw’, and that he had sent his bodyguard ‘CJ’, who is defendant Tareek James, to carry out the hit.

Interestingly, the second gangster-turned-state-witness said he had begged Bryan not to order the killing of ‘Outlaw’, because the targeted individual was a man who did not give trouble.

But Bryan allegedly refused, saying the person who gave him information on the target has never been wrong.

The secret cell phone recordings made by the self-styled don turned witness, which were played in court, provided some eye-opening information about the gang.

In one such recording, the ex-gangster told Bryan that Christie, an alleged senior gang operative, had used her police connections to have disloyal gang members arrested.

As the witness was being taken through the phone conversation by prosecutors in February last year, Christie was heard quietly chanting, “Jesas, Jesas, Jesas”.

The witness, who had previously claimed he was a second-in-command of the gang and a former don, could be heard on the recording telling Bryan that Christie had caused some of the other gangsters to be arrested.

Bryan was earlier heard telling the witness to “Try get back di nigga dem”.

The witness told the court that from custody, Bryan was trying to get the One Don faction of the Clansman gang operational, because it had fallen into disarray after his incarceration.

It was at that point that Blackman was told by the witness that Christie had sent a policeman from Spanish Town for gangsters ‘Jim Brown’, alias for defendant Dwight Hall; and ‘Sick Head’, alias for accused Lamar Simpson.

“A Mumma sen… fi dem. Shi sen… fi my bwoy deh, Jim Brown,” the witness was heard saying.

Bryan responded: “Hmmmm”.

The witness continued: “Shi (Mumma) tell mi ’bout ‘Termite’. She ah ensure seh di road clear suh wen yuh a come a road, di ting good. Shi call mi and seh Banks clear up.”

At that stage, the witness explained to the court that Christie wanted to clean up Top Banks, an area in Spanish Town with gangsters connected to the One Don criminal network.

Previous witnesses had testified that Top Banks was an area that was controlled by the gang.

“She (Christie) gave the police credible info that the police can use to get them off the street,” the witness said.

Christie then again quietly uttered, “Jesas, Jesas, Jesas”.

When quizzed as to why Christie wanted ‘Sick Head’ arrested, the witness said ‘Sick Head’ was collecting extortion money and failing to turn it over to the gang.

The witness also told the court that the policeman that Christie went to with information on gangsters was not a corrupt officer, as he was, like him, working towards dismantling the gang.

The female pastor, in another recording that was played, professed her loyalty to Bryan, including stating that she would “fast and pray” for the reputed gang leader to be released from custody.

She also called for members of the gang to remain loyal to Bryan, while indicating that he would soon be released from jail.

Christie also lamented the disloyalty of some gangsters. She was speaking with the former gangster-turned-state-witness and another alleged top gangster who was identified by his alias ‘City Puss’, who is defendant Jason Brown.

In another recording that was played in court, the said witness enquired if Bryan knew which one of the murders he would be charged for.

Bryan replied: “Come like a one pan di Avenue… di one a Portmore…; ah bout four murder”.

The witness then told Bryan: “Mi think a di one from inna terminus. Mi tell yuh yuh nuh ave nutten fi worry ’bout”.

‘Terminus’ was in reference to the Spanish Town Transport Centre.

The conversation between the two men then touched on the nation’s anti-gang legislation, under which Bryan was ironically charged later.

“Watch yah now… boop… yuh see if smaddy ah be a witness, dem affi inna di gang fi a time fi be a good witness,” said Bryan.

“And fi (see) seh me split di gang from Miller, ah di wickedest ting, and a 2014 di law come in, suh nutten before dat caan use against me,” he continued.

The witness was asked who Miller was, to which he responded that the name was in reference to Tesha Miller, while the law was in reference to the island’s anti-gang legislation.

Miller, said to be the reputed leader of the Clansman gang, is behind bars on a long sentence for accessory to murder relative to the killing of former Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) Chairman, Douglas Chambers.

The One Don faction is a breakaway from the Clansman gang.

Other witnesses also supported the prosecution’s case. For instance, a retired police inspector testified in January that Stephanie ‘Mumma’ Christie told him that she was the ‘gang leader’s’ woman and the baby mother of another reputed underworld strongman, Leighton ‘Livity’ Coke.

The former officer said Christie made the assertions to him when she visited the Spanish Town Police Station in 2017 and attempted to bribe him with $100,000 in exchange for the release of the ‘leader of the One Don faction of the Clansman gang’, Andre ‘Blackman’ Bryan.

The ex-cop, who labelled himself as a “gang expert”, gave details into the operations of the Clansman gang, which he said had several factions, including the One Don breakaway group. However, defence attorneys branded his testimony as being unreliable and not credible.

In his testimony, the retired lawman said Bryan was in police custody, and by September 2017, he was scheduled to conduct an interview with him at the Spanish Town Police Station.

On the day of the interview, the officer said one of his colleagues told him that a woman outside wanted to speak with him urgently.

The now retired investigator said he subsequently left the interview inside the station, and went outside, where he met a woman who introduced herself as Stephanie Christie-Cole, also known as ‘Mumma’.

Previous evidence presented at the trial indicated that Christie was married to a religious man in St Thomas, and was herself a pastor. She was arrested in 2019 on the day that her husband was to be ordained as a bishop, police investigators previously testified.

It was also heard in a secretly recorded cell phone conversation, that Christie’s boyfriend in the gang was Fabian Johnson, alias ‘Crocs’. She admitted to that on a recording that was subsequently played in court.

After telling the court the identity of the woman who wanted to speak to him on that day in 2017, prosecutors asked the retired cop to identify Christie in court.

He subsequently identified her, saying: “That’s the great Mumma”.

In continuing to detail the day he met Christie, the retired inspector said she told him that she was ‘Livity’ Coke’s baby mother and “the G’s woman”.

‘Livity’ is the alias for Leighton Coke, a brother of Tivoli Gardens’ strongman, Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke. Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke is incarcerated in the United States on drug-related charges.

“G”, meaning ‘general’, is one of the many aliases of Bryan.

The inspector said Bryan was noticeably happy when he was referred to as “G” by anyone.

Bryan, while seated in the prisoner’s dock in court, shook his head repeatedly as the officer testified, looking furious on occasions.

In reflecting on the day he met Christie, the retired lawman said he asked the purported pastor how she managed to have two of the “baddest man dem inna Jamaica?”

In response, he said Christie said: “… mi ting up like dat enuh. Mi ting up like dat!”

The witness did not elaborate on what Christie was referring to.

It was at that moment that the former policeman said Christie asked him what she could do to have “G” released from custody.

“Anything can happen enuh,” the retired investigator recalled the woman saying as she tried to sway him to do her bidding.

He said it was at that point that she offered him $100,000 for Bryan’s release from custody.

“A dis yah a dis mi enuh gyal,” the investigator recalled saying in response to Christie’s offer.

“Yuh have two a di baddest man dem and yuh want offer mi $100,000? Yuh mad? A two rifle yuh haffi gimmi,” he added.

According to the former police investigator, Christie gave assurances that what he wanted would be given to him.

“‘No problem. Once the G come out’. Dat she seh,” the witness stated.

Following the conversation, the officer said he went inside the police station to conduct the interview with Bryan.

The then senior investigator told the court that he did not charge Christie for bribing him because he believed she could assist him with getting information on the One Don breakaway faction of the Clansman gang.

On that premise, he said he befriended her because he was also of the belief that the woman was an influential member of the gang.

The witness said he then used the situation to his advantage, and played along with Christie by misleading her in the process.

He disclosed during his evidence-in-chief that he used the gangster clergywoman to ascertain the real name of the alleged top gangster who is known as ‘City Puss’, by visiting him at Horizon Adult Remand Centre and confirming that City Puss was the alias for Jason Brown, who was a convict.

Despite the myriad of evidence that was mounted by prosecution, four of the then 33 accused were freed in May 2022 after the prosecutors conceded that they had insufficient evidence to prove that those accused had committed the crimes they were charged with.

The men who were freed of being part of a criminal organisation were Damaine Elleston, Rushane Williams, Owen Ormsby and Rivaldo Hylton.

They were also freed of charges of conspiracy to commit murder and arson, among other offences.

Also in May last year, a fifth accused, Dwayne Salmon, alias ‘Chemist’, was acquitted of being part of a criminal organisation.

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

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

But Salmon’s attorney, Kemar Robinson, told Sykes that there was no evidence tying his client to the criminal organisation.

The judge agreed with that 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.

Further, Sykes said the evidence presented had not established that Salmon was loyal to the gang, or was part of the commissioning of any crime involving the One Don outfit.

In response to the judge’s remarks, prosecutors attempted to amend the indictment under which Salmon was charged. The new charge would see Salmon being accused of knowingly providing a benefit to a criminal organisation.

However, Sykes disclosed that any amendments at that stage would result in a severe injustice to the former defendant.

The remaining accused were also freed of other offences, but unlike the four men, they were not released from police custody, as they had other remaining charges to answer to.

During his unsworn statement from the dock, Bryan told the court: “I am a law-abiding citizen of the Jones Avenue community in Spanish Town.”

He added “I did not do the things the witnesses said I did. I did not give any instructions or orders to kill anyone.”

He went on to declare that he knew nothing about the collection of extortion money from businesses and transport operators in Spanish Town, St Catherine.

“I am innocent of these charges,” Bryan further claimed.

“I did not shoot anyone at New Nursery community. I wasn’t there. I am innocent of these charges,” he added.

His unworn statement from the dock meant that Bryan will not face cross-examination by prosecutors at the trial.

His statement came after Sykes ruled that he and other accused have a case to answer to the charges relative to a double murder and arson attack in ‘Fisheries’ or ‘New Nursery’ in Spanish Town in 2017.

Jermaine Robinson and his girlfriend, Cedella Walder, were killed during that incident.

In closing submissions from defence attorneys, Bryan’s attorney, Lloyd McFarlane, for example, said it was “unsafe” to convict the alleged gang leader based on “unreliable” testimonies from two former thugs.

McFarlane submitted to Sykes that the evidence of the two former gangsters-turned-state-witnesses were not credible, and their evidence had not been consistent throughout the trial.

McFarlane claimed that to date, no independent evidence had been provided to definitively implicate his client in any wrongdoing.

In declaring that the overall evidence that was presented by the prosecution is “unreliable”, McFarlane said it is “unsafe” to convict his client based on the uncorroborated testimonies of the two former members of the criminal network.

In relation to the case against Bryan’s brother, Kevaughn Green, one of his attorneys, Shannon Clarke, argued that the crown failed to bring sufficient evidence to prove that the accused was a member of the One Don faction of the Clansman gang.

Further, she said the prosecution had failed to even prove that the gang existed.

Clarke also contended that one of the two main witnesses failed to mention Green in his statement to the police, and only mentioned him during his testimony in court.

The omission of Green’s name from the statement, said Clarke, renders the credibility of the witness unreliable.

One of the two former gangsters-turned-state-witnesses testified that he saw Green in a bulletproof vest, but the attorney submitted that the witness failed to provide the context in which the vest was being allegedly worn.

Clarke also said at no time during the testimonies of the witnesses was Green’s name mentioned in any plot to kill anyone, extorted anyone, or of him attending any gang meetings.

Meanwhile, defence attorney Courtney Rowe told Sykes that his client, Marco Milller, and a former self-styled don who testified for the crown, were in a disagreement over a woman.

It was suggested earlier in the trial that Miller and the witness shared the same woman.

According to Rowe, it was rumoured that Miller had impregnated the woman.

The attorney said the testimony from the witness against his client was fuelled by jealousy and malice.

Miller remains on charges of being part of a criminal organisation and conspiracy to commit murder in relation to the killing of two men from Denham Town, West Kingston. Their bodies were reportedly buried in Rivoli in Spanish Town, St Catherine.

Also implicated in the murder of the two men at Rivoli is defendant Dwight ‘Jim Brown’ Hall.

His attorney, Akuna Noble, said despite the former gangster-turned-state-witness naming Hall among men who were seen beating the two men, his (the witness’) testimony could not be trusted.

To press home her point, Noble said the witness had also implicated defendant Pete Miller in the beating and subsequent murder. However, she said detention records proved that Miller was detained by the police at the time of the killing on November 15, 2017.

This, said Noble, was proof that the “witness was lying”.

She also presented more arguments in a bid to show that the witness was a liar.

According to Noble, the former gangster said Hall was a don who “run tings”, but then he quickly walked back the comments when he said her client (Hall) “nuh control nuh weh”.

Sykes will sum up these and other evidence, and then, ultimately, arrive at a verdict in the historic gang trial.