Jury in status scam trial told not to speculate

Judge explains dishonesty and duress

Justice Michael Wood began his summing up on Monday in the trial of Paul Anthony Hume Ebanks, who has pleaded not guilty to 27 counts of obtaining property by deception and one count of theft of a passport.

Ebanks is accused of obtaining sums of cash, said to have totaled more than $167,000, by falsely representing in 26 instances that the money was required payment for the legitimate grant of Caymanian status or permanent residence. One charge relates to a false representation that payment was required for the award of a government contract.

The alleged offenses took place between mid-2012 and December 2014.

The trial began the week of Oct. 10 and more than 50 witnesses were heard from, either in person or by having their statements read.

Justice Wood said he would summarize the evidence, but it was for jurors to decide the witnesses’ reliability and truthfulness. The importance of the evidence was also for them to decide. He pointed out that there would be no more evidence and they must not speculate.

One name that had loomed large in the case was that of McKeeva Bush, he noted, referring to the former premier whom Ebanks maintained he was working for.

“You mustn’t speculate about what he might have said, could have said, or whether he should in fact have come along to court. So you have to do without McKeeva Bush.”

He reminded jurors that their task was to decide whether the Crown had proved the case on each count. Feelings of sympathy or prejudice or any other emotion should have no place in their deliberations, he pointed out.

The charges against Ebanks alleged dishonesty, the judge noted. Jurors needed to consider two questions in deciding whether Ebanks had been dishonest. Was what he was doing dishonest by the ordinary standards of reasonable people? Must he have realized what he was doing was dishonest by those standards?

When the defendant gave evidence, he admitted getting money from some people in order to repay others who, he said, were threatening him.

This was a defense of duress, the judge said. “There are circumstances in which any defendant, although admitting that he intentionally committed a serious crime, can be excused by law.”

When a defendant raises the defense of duress, it is not for him to prove it, the judge said, it is for the prosecution to disprove it.

There were two counts in which the issue was raised. When considering them, jurors had to ask themselves a series of questions, he instructed them.

Was the defendant or his family threatened with death or serious injury if Ebanks did not pay back the money? If jurors were sure that was just a story he had made up, then he was guilty.

If jurors concluded Ebanks may have been threatened, did he honestly believe that the threats would be carried out immediately or imminently if he did not comply? If jurors were sure he did not so believe, then Ebanks was guilty.

If jurors concluded that Ebanks may have honestly believed that the threats would be carried out, then they had to ask whether Ebanks’s decision to obtain money from two men was a direct result of the threats.

If jurors were sure that Ebanks would have obtained the money from them whether or not he was threatened, he would be guilty.

If jurors concluded that the threats may have been the real reason for his decision to obtain the money, then they had to ask – would a reasonable person have been driven to act as the defendant did? Jurors had to consider if Ebanks had any opportunities to escape from those threats, for example, by going to police. Would a reasonable person have taken any of those opportunities?

If jurors were sure a reasonable person would not have acted as Ebanks did, then Ebanks was guilty. If jurors were not sure, then he was not guilty.

Justice Wood said he would continue after lunch to summarize evidence from the group of witnesses he referred to as “the politicians” and then review Ebanks’s evidence.

He expected to send jurors to begin their deliberations on Tuesday morning.

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