Trial began in Summary Court on Tuesday for senior immigration officer Garfield (Gary) Wong, who faces three traffic charges from 2013.
In opening the case before Magistrate Grace Donalds, Crown counsel Scott Wainwright said the defendant was accused of driving under the influence of alcohol, careless driving and leaving the scene of an accident in the early hours of Saturday, Dec. 27, 2013.
Wong’s breathalyzer reading was 0.184. The legal limit in Cayman is 0.100. Mr. Wainwright said the defendant was seen drinking alcohol at the Cotton Club earlier in the evening. Later, a woman who saw him at the bar was driving her BMW on Shamrock Road toward Bodden Town. She had friends in her car and a second car behind her contained the remainder of the group she had been with.
In the vicinity of Hibiscus Gardens, her vehicle was struck by an approaching truck, which the Crown said was driven by Wong. The BMW spun around two or three times and ended up in the hedge on the side of the road, the court heard. Mr. Wainwright said the woman received a cut on her shoulder from broken glass. The truck that hit hers failed to stop. Passengers in her car called 911.
Shortly afterward, the defendant’s vehicle was stopped by the driver following the woman’s BMW. The truck had also grazed this second vehicle, and when the driver realized the truck was not stopping, he turned around and flashed his lights and beeped his horn to get him to stop. The truck did stop eventually and Wong exited the vehicle.
Asked if he realized he had just been in an accident, the defendant reportedly produced a business card, gave it to the driver, shook his hand and said words to the effect, “Call me at this number and we can resolve this.”
By this time, police had arrived and required the defendant to provide a roadside breath test. He was unable to provide a sufficient sample, but did so at the Bodden Town Police Station.
On March 7, 2014, the defendant was interviewed under caution and provided a written statement. He said he was driving from the Bodden Town direction when his cellphone, which he had placed on the seat next to him, fell into the footwell. He reached down to pick it up and while in that position he heard a thud. He thought he had driven over a pothole or a road marker because he saw no lights from any other vehicle. He therefore kept on driving.
A few seconds later, he became aware of flashing lights behind him, but he did not stop because he did not know that driver. When Wong did stop, the other man asked, “You know you hit me?” The defendant, in his statement, said he told the driver he had no idea his vehicle had come into contact with another vehicle.
At this point, he said, he realized his right front wheel had collapsed. He inspected his vehicle and found damage, particularly to the headlight. He said he did have a few drinks earlier that night, but he did not believe he exceeded the legal limit and his driving ability was not impaired.
He concluded his statement by saying he was not aware he had been involved in an accident.
Mr. Wainwright’s first witness was the driver of the BMW. She said she had written to the court to withdraw her statement and did not wish to proceed with the matter. Questioned further, she said the incident had occurred three years ago and she wanted to move on. She said she had not re-read her statement. When the court marshal gave it to her, she placed it on her lap face down.
Mr. Wainwright asked to treat the witness as hostile, and the magistrate explained to her that she would be cross-examined on the contents of her statement because she seemed not willing to give evidence. The magistrate said the matter was very serious and the court could consider imprisonment for contempt.
The witness replied that she felt bullied over this and wanted to withdraw her statement.
Attorney Waide DaCosta asked to speak as a friend of the court. He suggested that the witness should have an opportunity to seek legal advice. He said it seemed she felt she was being ambushed since the Crown had known she wanted to withdraw her statement. He said the witness should know what her rights were.
After further discussion, the magistrate agreed to a short adjournment. After about 20 minutes, court resumed. Mr. Wainwright read the witness’s statement line by line and asked if what he read was correct. She agreed with most of it, saying once that she did not recall, “but it’s there.”
After reading the statement, Mr. Wainwright said he had no more questions.
Defense attorney Dennis Brady asked the witness if she had been breathalyzed. She said yes, but the officer had told her she was under the limit.
He asked if she ever got an answer to her letters asking to withdraw her statement. She said no, but then she got phone calls from a certain officer saying that if she did not come to court she would be held in contempt. She said she felt threatened and understood she would be arrested if she did not comply.
After lunch, Mr. Wainwright read the statements of two women who had been passengers in the BMW, and then called the investigating officer, who was giving evidence as of press time.