Court of Appeal upholds conviction
Former police officer Elvis Kelsey Ebanks began a sentence of three years imprisonment on Monday after his appeal against conviction on bribery charges was dismissed.
Ebanks, an officer for 12 years, was found guilty in May 2014 of two counts of soliciting a bribe and two counts of breach of trust. He was granted bail pending appeal.
Attorney Laurence Aiolfi argued against the convictions, one ground being that the trial judge should have warned the jury that the Crown’s main witness had powerful motives to lie.
Mr. Aiolfi did not argue against the sentence. There is no provision for sentence to be delayed after the Court of Appeal delivers its ruling. Ebanks had a few minutes with his attorney and a family member before being taken into custody.
The charges arose from incidents in November 2012, when a recently arrived Filipino national was accused of stealing a cellphone from a car at a business premises. He was assisting a relative there, working without the knowledge of the owner. He used the cellphone, which enabled the owner to trace it and report the matter to police.
Ebanks was the officer who responded. The phone’s owner did not want to press charges. The business owner wanted the Filipino man removed from the premises and Ebanks drove him home.
Ebanks’s testified that he had lectured the man about being dishonest and that he could have ended up in jail. The conversation turned to money, Ebanks said, and the man offered the officer a loan of $500.
Ebanks said he foolishly accepted and intended to pay it back. He denied taking CI$115 and US$31 from the man that day. He received $500 several days later, after the man had informed police that Ebanks had asked him for money. Police intercepted Ebanks with the $500 in marked bills, which the police had supplied to the man.
Mr. Aiolfi said the Filipino man had powerful reasons to lie – he had stolen a phone and had been found working without a permit. He argued it was incumbent on Justice Charles Quin as trial judge to tell the jury to treat this witness with caution.
The appeal court did not agree. Sir Alan Moses gave the court’s decision, saying there was no basis for saying there should have been any special warning.
Justice Quin had told the jury that the issue was – who was telling the truth? If jurors believed Ebanks, they must find him not guilty. If they believed the witness, they would find Ebanks guilty.
“It is commonplace and perfectly correct for a judge to remind the jury, where there is a conflict or clash of evidence, where inevitably the jury are going to have to make up their mind as to who is telling the truth and who is not. In presenting that factual issue of credibility to the jury in that way, the judge was not in any way undermining the principle … that they had to be sure that the witness was telling the truth before they could convict,” Justice Moses said.
The proposition that an impoverished, recently arrived immigrant would offer an officer $500 needed only to be stated to see how fanciful it was, he concluded, and the court was “not one whit surprised” that the jury had rejected it.