Two men appeared in Summary Court on Monday, charged with possession of a Lorcin semiautomatic pistol and six rounds of live ammunition without a license.
Chief Magistrate Nova Hall granted conditional bail to Matthew Anthony Whittaker, 25. She remanded Wayne Alphanso Bellafonte, 24, in custody, noting that the Crown’s evidence was different as it pertained to each defendant, although they were charged jointly.
Crown counsel Kenneth Ferguson said the event that led to the men’s arrest was a report by a female that Bellafonte had pointed a gun in her face. This alleged incident prompted police to attend at the parking lot of the Fete Night Club around 3 a.m. on May 7.
Officers spoke to Bellafonte and Whittaker was nearby. Bellafonte had a set of keys and he was asked which vehicle the car key was for. He indicated a Ford. However, the officer noted that the key was for a Honda Civic and saw one such vehicle two spaces over. He shone a flashlight into the Honda and saw what appeared to be the handle of a handgun near the driver’s seat. A trained firearm officer was alerted and came to the scene.
Both Whittaker and Bellafonte were shown the firearm before it was photographed and removed from the vehicle.
When questioned, Bellafonte first said the vehicle belonged to a relative of his, but Whittaker was driving it. He said he had been washing the car in North Side and then left Whittaker alone in it while he went to take a shower. They then drove to the nightclub, picking up two other men in Bodden Town. Bellafonte said he did not know the men and could not describe them; when they got to the club the two men disappeared. He also denied threatening the female.
Later Bellafonte admitted that he lied about Whittaker driving the vehicle.
Whittaker in his interview said he was picked up in Northward and two other males whom he did not know were already in the car. He said he was not alone in the car at any time and he did not drive it. He suggested that CCTV could show who the driver was.
Mr. Ferguson said there was no fingerprint or DNA evidence to link Bellafonte or Whittaker to the firearm. Both men denied knowledge of it.
Defense attorney Laura Larner sad Bellafonte initially lied about who was driving the car out of fear of the driver. She emphasized that CCTV was extremely important evidence and questioned why it had not been disclosed.
She applied for bail on behalf of Bellafonte, pointing out that he had no convictions for firearms, violence or failure to surrender. He had a job and the support of a respectable, hard-working family, she said.
The magistrate denied bail, noting that the car keys were in Bellafonte’s possession and that strengthened the case against him.
Defense attorney James Stenning was successful in his application for bail on behalf of Whittaker. He said the evidence was tenuous and there was no link to the gun other than the fact that Whittaker was a passenger in the car. Even the co-defendant had confirmed that Whittaker was not in control of the car.
Mr. Stenning called the case circumstantial, “with too many holes to hold someone in custody until trial.”
The magistrate granted bail with conditions that included one or two sureties of $10,000 total; curfew between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.; and wearing an electronic monitoring device.
Ms. Larner repeated her request that the Crown pursue the CCTV evidence and Mr. Ferguson said he would ask police to do so.
The matter is scheduled to be mentioned again on May 31.