Before they were to begin deliberations Thursday, jurors in the case of a police officer accused of taking a bribe were asked by both the defense and the prosecution to consider the credibility of the crown’s main witness.
Suspended police officer Elvis Kelsey Ebanks is accused of accepting a bribe from a man who had admitted stealing a cell phone. Ebanks claims he thought the money – $500 – was a loan.
He is on trial for two counts each of obtaining a benefit with intent to interfere with the administration of justice and two counts of representing that receipt of money would influence him in the discharge of his duties.
Crown prosecutor Trevor Ward told jurors this week that Mr. Ferreras had admitted stealing a phone at the Auto Spa in November 2012, and that they had to decide if that meant he could not believed about what had happened afterward.
Ebanks went to Auto Spa to investigate the theft of the phone, which he recovered from Mr. Ferreras. The owner of the phone told the officer he just wanted his phone back and did not want to prosecute.
Ebanks drove Mr. Ferreras home and spoke to him on the way. Mr. Ward said after they left Auto Spa, the vehicle made a stop, but where they stopped and for how long was in dispute.
The prosecutor said there was no dispute that there had been a discussion about Mr. Ferreras having stolen the phone and the possibility of jail for theft. Then there was a discussion of money being given to the officer.
Mr. Ferreras said it started with the officer asking him if he had money, and asking him for $500. Ebanks disputed this, saying Mr. Ferreras offered him the money as a loan.
Ebanks had told the court he gave Mr. Ferreras an example of finding a wallet with money and how keeping it would be stealing. Mr. Ward said apparently that was all it took for Mr. Ferreras to offer a loan. “You ask yourself if that has the ring of truth,” he urged.
Mr. Ferreras was on work permit, making $700 a month. He had rent and utilities to pay and he was sending money home to the Philippines. Was he in a position to hand over $500?, Mr. Ward asked. He said the officer told him to borrow the money.
Both sides agreed an arrangement was made that money would be handed over to Ebanks on Nov. 14; that Ebanks called Mr. Ferreras several times about collecting the money; and that Mr. Ferreras gave the $500 to Ebanks at the Countryside Shopping complex as arranged.
Mr. Ward suggested that jurors listen to recordings of two telephone conversations and determine which voice was aggressive and demanding. He asked them to consider whether these were the voices of two people negotiating a loan.
Defense attorney Laurence Aiolfi also asked the jury to consider Mr. Ferreras’s credibility. The defense said he was a thief and pointed to instances when he said Mr. Ferreras lied to police and lied under oath. Also, he was breaking the law by working outside the terms of his work permit. “He is dishonest in a number of ways,” the attorney summarized.
He questioned whether Mr. Ferreras was taking part in a sting operation against Ebanks to cover up his own dishonesty or to make his life easier by remaining on the island and working. But he also suggested there was a limit to Mr. Ferreras’s ability to communicate in and understand English. (He testified through an interpreter of the Tagalog language.) Wasn’t it possible, Mr. Aiolfi asked, that he misunderstood what was going on and what was expected of him? Was it possible that his offer of a loan was a result of his misunderstanding?
He pointed to evidence that supported his client’s version of events, including photos from road cameras that supported Ebanks’s account that he had stopped for only two minutes, rather than the 20 minutes Mr. Ferreras claimed, the attorney said.
Mr. Aiolfi suggested to jurors that while Ebanks may have fallen short on a professional level by accepting a loan, that did not mean he was dishonest. “He made an error in judgment, but he did not interfere with the course of justice,” he said.