A verdict in the trial of Kenneth Bryan, former political assistant to Premier Alden McLaughlin, is expected on Tuesday, Feb. 9, following the conclusion of evidence and submissions this week.
Bryan, a former television reporter and candidate in the 2013 elections and current radio talk-show host, pleaded not guilty to disorderly conduct and assaulting police outside Dream Night Club in the early hours of Oct. 11, 2014.
In his evidence on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, Bryan maintained that he was trying to help police.
He said he left the night club around 2:30 a.m. and was getting ready to drive away when a man he knew engaged him in conversation. As they talked, he saw female detective Karen McQuade approaching and seeming to be in distress. They knew each other because of his reporting at various crime scenes.
A man, initially referred to only as Jermaine, was following and verbally abusing her. She took refuge in Bryan’s car and Bryan said he tried to calm the man down, but things got worse. Another man, referred to as TC, came over to help him deal with Jermaine and those two got into a physical struggle. Ms. McQuade left the scene and Bryan said police officers arrived and parted Jermaine and TC.
Subsequently, Jermaine left and officers arrested TC. “What I saw as a citizen was … that police had let the ‘bad guy’ go, in my perspective,” Bryan told the court. Because he knew the officer in charge, he went over intending to explain that the police were making a mistake. He said he wasn’t happy, but he was calm and not aggressive.
As he approached, another officer put out his arm to stop him, telling him, “Stand back and don’t obstruct justice.” Bryan said he used a slang term in reply, saying he was just trying to help.
He was subsequently grabbed from behind by another officer and pulled away; when he and that officer recognized each other, he was released and they talked. Bryan said he went back toward the senior officer to try to explain what had happened. The officer who had stopped him the first time told him he would be arrested if he came back again.
In cross-examination, Crown counsel Scott Wainwright told the defendant, “No one is criticizing you for assisting Detective Constable McQuade … [but] thereafter you overstepped a mark in the way you reacted with police.”
Bryan said he understood, but did not agree.
Mr. Wainwright noted that the disorderly conduct charge alleged that Bryan had used abusive and calumnious language such as would tend to provoke a breach of the peace. The officers’ evidence was that Bryan had used the f-word in various contexts, such as telling an officer to “turn your f–– ugly face so I can see you” and asking if the officer wanted to lose his “f–– job.”
Bryan had admitted using a particular phrase and it was arguable that this “continuous use” made the charge because of the circumstances.
The charge of assaulting police did not have to mean physical contact, Mr. Wainwright indicated. The evidence was that Bryan broke free from the officer who grabbed him and made a beeline for where the other officers were – the senior policeman and the officer who had stopped him by putting out his arm. This second officer apprehended immediate and unlawful violence and adopted a defensive stance.
Invasion of personal space and the language used makes out the charge, Mr. Wainwright said. There does not need to be any physical force if the complainant apprehends physical violence.
Bryan’s defense attorney Karin Thompson noted that her client had appealed publicly for witnesses to come forward, but no one was willing to give evidence, so it was his word against the police officers’.
Regarding his language, she said Bryan had argued that as political assistant to the premier, he would not use such language: “I would be putting my livelihood on the line.” If officers said he had used the f-word, they were either mistaken or lying, Ms. Thompson said, and she asked the court to consider the likely atmosphere at the time, with a noisy crowd around.
When the officer had put his arm out to stop Bryan, he had turned around to face him; therefore, there was no need for Bryan to tell him to turn his face, she pointed out.
Bryan had denied doing anything to give an impression of threatening physical violence. He said the officer had a reputation for muscle, so it would be foolish to invite physical confrontation. He said his bail sheet had listed a charge of common assault. He was upset after being charged with assaulting police because the charges are for different behaviors and have different consequences.
He said he had wanted to put out a press release when the charges became public, but the premier had told him to let it cool down a bit. “This was damaging to my personal and professional reputation,” he pointed out. “If this was left alone without my side of the story, they [people] would think I was aggressive with police.”
“I don’t curse police,” he added later. “When something happens, I’m the first to call police.”
Bryan said he was put on paid leave after the incident. “In January 2015, Cabinet called me in and said they were releasing me from my job,” he told the court. “I believe this was an opportunity for the premier of the Cayman Islands to get rid of me.”