Not guilty!

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Former Cayman Islands premier McKeeva Bush was found not guilty on all 11 charges against him Thursday following a three-and-a-half-week Grand Court trial.  

A jury of four women and three men deliberated for about five hours prior to reaching the unanimous verdict close to noon Thursday, clearing Mr. Bush of six counts of misconduct in a public office and five counts of breach of trust by a Member of the Legislative Assembly. The charges related to Mr. Bush’s use of his government-issued credit card between July 2009 and April 2010, according to a Grand Court indictment.  

There was silence in courtroom No. 1 as the court clerk read each count to the jury forewoman, who answered “not guilty” to each one individually. Judge Michael Mettyear thanked the jurors for their service and left the courtroom. Mr. Bush remained silent, with his head down, appearing to write in a notepad while the verdict was delivered. Then pandemonium erupted.  

Close to 100 observers had packed into the visitors’ gallery – as many as the court could possibly hold in its available seats – to hear the verdict and a few went into the courtroom dock to hug or shake hands with Mr. Bush after the judge exited. The opposition party leader let out a sigh of relief, then turned around and raised a fist to the assembled crowd, eliciting shouts of “McKeeva!” and “Premier Bush!”  

A few supporters used phone cameras to take pictures of Mr. Bush receiving a hug from teary-eyed former George Town MLA Ellio Solomon while the two men stood in the dock. The crowd of onlookers from the courtroom then joined dozens more outside the downtown George Town courthouse for a rally and singing of church hymns, while Mr. Bush gave a brief statement to the press and those assembled. One man grabbed Mr. Bush and lifted him off the ground in a bear hug, to the delight of the crowd, while car horns could be heard honking throughout downtown. 

“I am very grateful to the jurors who carefully listened to the evidence and, after due consideration, saw clearly that I had done nothing wrong,” Mr. Bush said.  

Mr. Bush’s lead local counsel Michael Alberga quipped, “If the charges don’t fit, you must acquit.”  

Outside the courtroom, Mr. Bush was embraced by his son Barry, while his wife Kerry wept. “I just thank the Lord everything is OK,” Mrs. Bush said.  

“My friends, this is time for reflection,” Mr. Bush said. “Let us not be unmindful that a warship is stuck on the ocean out there [referring to HMS Argyll, which arrived in Cayman on Monday and remained until Thursday]. This is not by coincidence. They will never make me believe that.  

“However, the events which have occurred are not an indictment of any particular nationality. They are isolated abuses of power by U.K.-appointed representatives which, unfortunately, continue to reoccur in our islands and hopefully, in the near future, the necessary checks and balances will be restored. We must put an end to this police state that we are living in.  

“We do really need to establish the partnership between the Cayman Islands and the United Kingdom which existed on the basis of mutual trust, cooperation, clarity of purpose, and I stand ready and willing, as is my party, and I believe the entire – at least 70 percent –of this country today to participate in this process.”  

Mr. Bush said he intends to have public meetings around Cayman “to tell the people exactly what went on in this country during my trial.” The dates for the meetings were still being worked out at press time.  

The former premier was silent on any legal action he might take as a result of the not guilty verdict.  

“I will be guided by my attorneys. However, [lead defense counsel Geoffrey Cox] has made it clear that they will hear him in Westminster,” Mr. Bush said, referring to issues that arose with the revelation of former governor Duncan Taylor’s emails apparently cheering on police efforts to arrest and charge the former premier. “There has to be some kind of inquiries as to what went on. This cannot stop here.”  

“There are certain persons or instruments in the country that do not mean us well,” Mr. Solomon, the former MLA said. “Particularly after this trial, I’m not sure I want to use the term betting man, I just think in terms of moving forward, it definitely opens the table for further discussions. We need a little cooling down period and decide where exactly we need to go from there.”  

Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin, who was attending the Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon when the verdict came in, said he “would certainly support [Mr. Bush’s] call for an inquiry.”  

“I have absolute respect for the system of justice we have. The prosecutors brought the case, it was defended, evidence was heard and the jury brought a verdict,” Mr. McLaughlin said.  

Governor Helen Kilpatrick’s office declined to comment on the verdict Thursday. “The verdict is a matter for the courts of the Cayman Islands,” a spokesperson noted. 

Cayman Democratic Party [formerly the United Democratic Party] chairwoman Tessa Bodden-Johnson was reluctant to get too political just minutes after the verdict, but she noted that the verdict would be a positive development ahead of the May 2017 general election.  

Jury thanked   

Mr. Bush was not the only one in the courtroom to publicly appreciate the work of the trial jury, which had been at the case for nearly a month.  

“You’ve been a very patient jury,” Justice Mettyear said. “You’ve been messed about time-wise [referring to the several adjournments in the case], and we’re very grateful for the forbearance and patience you’ve shown. And thank you very much for your very careful deliberations on these matters, and for your verdicts.” 

To reflect the fact that they had been “messed around a bit” and had sat “on this longish case,” he told jurors they need not sit on another jury for at least five years. 

Potential jurors first reported for the trial on Sept. 8.  

Compass journalists Carol Winker and Alan Markoff contributed to this story.  

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Supporters rally round McKeeva Bush outside the courthouse after the not guilty verdict is delivered on Thursday. – Photo: Jewel Levy

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A triumphant McKeeva Bush, accompanied by his wife Kerry and son Barry, greets his supporters outside the Grand Court in George Town Thursday, moments after a jury unanimously acquitted him of 11 criminal charges. – PHOTO: CHRIS COURT

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An emotional moment as McKeeva Bush greets his wife Kerry after the verdict is announced. – PHOTO: CHRIS COURT

1 COMMENT

  1. While Mr. Bush is not guilty of a crime I hope that he now takes the time to reflect on what he can do differently in the future to help ensure that something like this can never happen again. This is also the time for the CoP and DPP to take a serious look at the process that resulted in Mr. Bush being charged in the first place as it seemed clear to most people by the end of the trial that there was insufficient evidence to move forward with this prosecution.

    The e-mail messages from the former governor are very troubling and for many gives some insight into the true nature of the relationship between the UK and the Cayman Islands. This combined with what many people now see as a politically motivated malicious prosecution will only lead to further distrust and a proper independent investigation will now be needed before the healing process can begin.

  2. Not guilty of a crime, but in my humble opinion, use of a Government credit card for massive gambling is wrong, use of extensive government travel to attend gambling centres is wrong, and failure to pay back all the amounts drawn is wrong and not to pay it back as and when spent is wrong.
    So if this debacle only has the effect of removing such a person from high office then it has at least achieved something. The sad thing is that it now allows such a person back into office, and that would expose the public purse to even greater danger. Gambling can be an addiction, what for example would such an addict do if presented with wrongful opportunities to profit from high office? Maybe this particular politician is merely a hopeful gambler , not an addict, let us also presume that he would never fall into the greater wrong described, but wouldnt it be best just not to put him in temptations way?
    Let us hope that the government accounting is now tightened, but

  3. Mr Arthur Rank would you consider the following: Beer and rum drinking every day an addiction and wrong? Would you considered watching porno shows every night is an addiction and wrong? Would you consider committing fornicating and adultery an addiction and wrong? Would you consider pinching a few dollars from your employer each day an addiction and wrong? Would you consider sneaking in to work each day at 9 am when you should be there at 8.30 is an addiction and wrong? Would you consider going back to the buffet table for more lobster briquette and steak when you are already full an addiction and wrong?
    My friend we have all done something that others would consider as wrong. All of us would be headed straight for Hell Fire if it was not for the Promise of being saved by Grace and not by works.

  4. Well Ms Vargas, some of those might be addiction, and some might be wrong, some could be both, but you miss the point.
    The point is that whilst he broke no law, he did use Government money to pursue a potentially addictive interest to such a degree that the reasonable man might consider he should not have control of the public purse. Much of that was paid back, but not immediately. I know of no real business that would allow that and I dont think Cayman Islanders should!

  5. One point people making comments like ‘Oh is must be OK to steal from your Job or to use your employers Credit Card to get cash to Gamble’ seem to miss here is that if your employer has a policy against personal use of your corporate Credit Card and you use it for personal purchases you are in the wrong, if there is a law against personal use of Government credits cards and you do it you are breaking the law. In Mr Bush’s case there was no policy or law against the personal use of Government credit cards in fact there were actually policies that said it was OK to use them for personal purchases as long as the money was paid back. In Addition this was apparently regularly done by other civil servants. So the point here is Mr Bush did nothing illegal that warranted and investigation, Arrest, Charges and an expensive trial which was paid for by the people.

    Also by the way, there were policies put in place to stop this practice, and Mr Bush did stop it when the policy changed.

    So yes this doesn’t look like anything other than a witch hunt and he did nothing illegal.

  6. Another example of a politician relying on what’s legal rather than asking what’s right. A similar situation to the recent expenses scandal in the UK. It’s all very well to say ‘I didn’t break the rules’ but surely we hold our politicians to a higher moral standard than that?

  7. Mr Arthur, I really do not think I am missing the point, I am just trying to split justice.
    The man broke no Law, then why was he arrested if it was not a conspiracy to bring down the Premier politically.
    Speaking, and considering addictive interest, let us turn over the page. Suppose a wife took her husband credit card every day and shopped until she dropped. She made sure that no sales missed her and never had space in her closet for another dress or shoe. Was that an addiction and wrong? Maybe it was, but would you go as far as to have her arrested when she gave you the money back from her savings? Suppose the son was allowed to use the credit card and went out and bought drugs every day, was that a addiction or wrong?.
    Mr Arthur do you really think that no Minister CEO or High ranking Government in this Cayman Islands and other parts of the world has never spent their card on personal use before? Yes they did, and some of the things that they were used for you do not want to know. No one is saying that Mr Bush like all the others did not spend his card changing money at a Casino, but the facts before the court, the evidence by witness supports that he did nothing wrong in breaking the Law. What do you call signing a blank cheque and giving it to your staff. It shows that Mr Bush had no intention of stealing, depriving tricking or obtaining any money that he was not taking care of.. I truly believe that if we remove any personal vendetta we have against Mr Bush, and look at the facts, we would see clearly without a doubt that the man was vindicated. Politics has been a bitter pill in these Island for donkey years, not only today; and unless you have seen how people damage each other in this country through it you will never understand. God bless you and your family and I do hope you never have to experience how cruel it can be.

  8. Reading the comments on here and on sites that are nothing more than blogs claiming to be News Services. The one thing that is clear, is that hatred is common in Cayman. I am sure that if Mr Bush would have been dragged out of his house and locked in jail and the only reason given was that we don’t like you, plenty of people would have been OK with that because can care less if their opponents rights are trampled on as long as they benefit from it. Be careful what you ask for people, when governments start trampling on certain peoples rights because they disagree with their positions there’s nothing stopping it from happening to you. Another thing that is clear is that the orchestrators of this charade have proven one thing and that it is how easy it is to turn the Caymanian people against their sitting leader with trumped up charges. If Alden did or said something the wasn’t in line with their beliefs all they would need to do is have him arrested and paraded in front of the cameras, lay a bunch of false accusations on him and people would quickly turn on him. How gullible they must think the Caymanian people are.

  9. Well Ms Vargas, theres none so blind as those that will not see!
    We wont agree, so for me I will leave this discussion with the thought that whilst you are happy to see a person I would call a compulsive gambler (just my opinion!) in charge of Government money, I am not!

  10. Here’s a more important point. Gambling in the Cayman Islands is ILLEGAL, yet the one person who holds the highest office flaunts that law by going off island to do just that. Doesn’t that tell you all you need to know?!! One rule for the minions and another for everyone else…

    Enough said!

  11. Congratulations Mr. Bush, wishing you and your family all the best in the future. Sir I hope that you will push forward and investigate this matter to the highest level, what was done to you was unacceptable and it should worry all of us that if it could be done to you the highest person in the land what wouldn’t they do to us the little ppl. No bubbly for taylor or tony this weekend. just disgraceful

  12. Curious Lorraine. Yes, Gambling is illegal in Cayman but it is not in the US and many other places. Are you saying that everyone from Cayman that goes to a Casino while vacationing in the US or even other islands in the Caribbean is breaking the law ? Another question for those pointing out the illegality of Gambling, why is it that Churches are allowed to have raffles or even Bingo games, is this not a form of gambling ? Or are there two set of rules.

    In this case where’s the difference in the rules for the minions and the others as you say. Show me one Caymanian that even got scolded about gambling while vacationing outside of the Cayman Islands, or anywhere in the law where it says that as a Caymanian Citizen it is illegal to Gamble even if you’re in another country where it is legal.

    The truth here is that this has nothing to do with Gambling it has everything to do with people’s personal feelings toward Mr Bush.

  13. In answer to your question, it’s not what he did, but who he is. Honestly no one cares including myself about gambling, but as leader of an island that outlaws gambling, he needs to lead by example. He has to be held of a higher standard!

  14. The crux of the issue is not gambling, its not using a government credit card for personal use.

    It was the way in which Mr. Bush was handled. Really all that was needed was to have him pay them money back and if government decided that it needed to change the credit card policy, then do that.

    Lets go arrest every single MLA that has used their card for personal use then and drag them through the courts like a criminal. Lets embarrass them on a national level.

    Unna so blind. Its not a about the card or the gambling as none of that was illegal or dishonest.

    Its about removing someone from the highest office in the nation when they dont dance to your tune.

  15. Sean hit it right on the nose. Bush has always stood up to the UK bureaucrats. There’s been plenty of occasions when he stood his ground such as when they demanded that direct taxation be introduced. He has been a thorn in their behinds for a long time, but it’s obvious from the comments on this respectable news paper as well as the full of crap ones that they have successfully discredited him. We all know that the last thing they wanted was for him to get reelected. If you look hard enough into anyone’s life you will find something to make a scandal out of, including the people doing all the Bush bashing.

    Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

  16. The supporters keep saying that the Island need to change the rules regarding government credit cards. Would a Bush supporter please explain how you justify the Premier could think that it was OK to borrow government money for gambling? It’s not like he did this once. He wasn’t stuck in the Las Vegas airport and spent a few hundred to pass the time. We are talking THOUSANDS of dollars and several trips.

  17. Not afraid to say I am a Bush supporter for 30 years. The man was Hung long before the trial.
    It is time we accept that he has been found not guilty and we have to move on.
    What Caymanians need to worry about is living better with each other and stop being MEAN SPIRITED.. Are we so blind to see that we are being set up against each other. like the Crabs in Basket.

  18. Patrick, I think you and a lot of people are missing the point here. No one said that what he did was justified or even smart. In fact I think it was stupid. The point is that it was not illegal and there was no need for an expensive court case.

    Weather he used a government Credit Card or his own Credit card to gamble away a lot of money was not very smart. But he did not break the law. If he did then why was he the only politician that was arrested and charged with as crime for personal use of his CIG Card when so many others have been doing the same thing, even Mr Arden admitted to charging 3500.00 to his CIG Card on a watch for his wife and then paying it back, Ms Julie used her CIG Card for Shopping Spree’s yet neither one of them or anyone else was charged with a crime. This is why it appeared to be something personal against Mr Bush. His Gambling problems are another discussion, this discussion is about weather or not he broke the law and a trial was actually justified. It is obvious that people who are not UDP supporters could care less if he was unjustifiably charged with a crime as long as they see him go down. That is wrong. This whole thing was perfectly orchestrated to ruin his political career, I personally think he should have known better. But as for him being a thief like people are trying to paint him as, I don’t see any evidence of that, what I do see evidence of is that the court system was improperly used to manipulate the Caymanian democratic system. I’d feel the same way no matter who it was UDP or PPM. I personal don’t support either of them because I do not vote.

  19. I would like someone who is professional to answer in truth please tell the readers what is gambling. (2) What is immoral conduct.
    75% of this Island gamble, whether it is scratch and win at the Supermarkets, buy a Church raffle ticket or just buy a number of chance.
    The prosecution could not prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
    Expressions of negativity is not based on the evidence, based on Politics and hate.
    After listening to the evidence and reading some comments made concerning how the English feel about the people of Cayman I am saddened and try to live with an open heart, that all of them are not feeling the same way. My greatest wish is that the relationship between Caymanians and the British will change to something good,

  20. Patrick please explain to me that you think using a government card to go on a shopping spree for thousands of dollars also buying expensive watches or buying numbers at a gambling table is not all the same thing. It is. All of us has a secret habit don’t worry about that. We just will not say what it is.
    Bush was not on trial for his habit, something that is done all over the world by all nations.
    No matter what; we will have those people who could not manipulate Bush to be against him, Its human nature.

  21. Don’t waste your time Twyla. Hatred is a powerful emotion, No Matter what anyone says or does. You cannot change how people feel about someone they harbor hatred towards. The Cayman Islands is a divided society as are most nations, hatred for ones follow man is rampant. Love thy neighbor is not human nature, this is the world in which we live and there are plenty of people that have learned to benefit from this.

    There were a great many people counting on the jury finding Bush guilty whether he was or not. For years I’ve watched as he has been publicly accused of crimes with no charges ever filed. I truly believe that the expectation was that enough hatred had been generated for Mr Bush that it would have effected the trial just as it did the election. However I do think the outcome may have backfired, because now a lot of people will see him as a man that took a lot of licks and still kept his cool. During his time as Premier before his own camp turned on him, he was constantly berated with persoanl attacks by the opposition, I watched and all I ever heard from them was Bush bashing never any realistic alternatives or suggestions. Yet now while he is in the opposition I see an air of cooperation. That’s to be respected. I am just waiting now to see the reaction of those that gained power on the heals of his suffering.

    I actually find it pathetic that after all the accusations from importing explosives to land deals made by his real estate company being twisted around and made to look like bribes, that this is all they came up with ‘ guilty of using a CIG Credit card for personal use’, I didn’t hear not one other politician say ‘I’ve never did that’. Because they all knew they were, yet they were quite comfortable with his being charged with a crime behind it.

    After years of digging through his private life with a fine tooth comb and this is all they could come up with says something about how the man lived his life.

  22. At the risk of attracting the wrath of Mrs Vargas, let me say this! Yes a jury found him not guilty, but he was innocent in May 2013 as well and he was not able to win the Government. If people like Mrs Vargas think that this will return her party to power she needs to think again. Even the most die-hard of the intelligent UDP crowd know that this will not help Macs comeback and they know he can never lead them to power again. the man has embarrassed even the most staunch supporters and soon will learn what it means to be standing alone. Spend the settlement wisely Mac, don’t sink it into political gains because you won’t have much left at the end of the day and it would have bought you nothing!

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