Stephens contests expulsion from Athletic Association

Former track coach Ato Stephens is contesting his expulsion from the Cayman Islands Athletic Association, claiming the sports organization has breached his human rights.

Mr. Stephens was released from prison in November after serving jail time for persuading a teenage athlete to send him inappropriate pictures of herself.

Now he is seeking to rejoin the athletic association.

In a letter to its executive committee, seen by the Cayman Compass, Mr. Stephens states that the decision to bring disciplinary action against him was “unlawful” and suggests he could take legal action.

Mr. Stephens’s wife, Cayman track legend Cydonie Mothersille, is a member of the Cayman Islands Athletic Association executive committee, which voted to take action against him and which will now be tasked with deciding if he can be readmitted.

Lance Barnes, president of the athletic association, confirmed the letter was genuine.

He said, “Mr. Stephens was banned by the Cayman Islands Athletic Association following a unanimous vote of the executive committee, which his wife is part of.

“We received a letter from him Friday morning stating we have violated his human rights and that we didn’t follow the constitution of the association.”

He said an emergency meeting had been called for Monday to discuss the situation. He was not clear Friday on whether Ms. Mothersille would be involved in those discussions.

“There seems to be some conflict of interest there,” he said.

Mr. Barnes said he was confident that the association had acted in accordance with its rules and with the law when it moved to ban the jailed track coach following an outcry from parents.

He said the executive committee would have to take legal advice on the issues raised in Mr. Stephens letter.

The basis of Mr. Stephens’s claim is that the track association cited a regulation in its constitution relating to “sexual offences” as justification for banning him.

“The Regulation C, Section 7 applies to disciplinary actions for sexual misconduct,” he wrote.

“Unfortunately, this does not apply to me, since I was never convicted of any sexual offenses and was acquitted of the charges in a court of Law.

“Thus, any action of decision by CIAA under Section 7 are null and void in my case.” Mr. Stephens was convicted of using an Information Communications Technology Network to annoy, harass or abuse the underage female.

He was cleared, after trial, of more serious allegations of indecent assault and gross indecency against the same girl, while she was 14 and 15.

Mr. Stephens left the jurisdiction when the allegations first surfaced but was arrested in the U.S. and extradited to Cayman, where he was sentenced to 18 months in prison in August 2017. He had already served almost a year in jail in the U.S. and was released on conditional discharge in Cayman in November the same year.

His letter cites the failure of the Cayman Islands Athletic Association to give him a fair hearing and claims his right to free association, among other human rights, has been compromised.

He adds, “The unlawful actions of CIAA without following the due process of law and taking unilateral actions based on hearsay has caused mental torture and degrading treatment to me and my family by accusing me of sexual offences, of which I was acquitted by a court of law ….

“Through this letter I am informing you that I reserve the right to initiate legal proceedings against the CIAA for taking unlawful actions in violation of its own constitution and the violations of my human rights protected under the Cayman Islands Constitution 2009.

“I seek immediate withdrawal and annulment of the said proceedings in the first instance in an official CIAA letter.”

Mr. Barnes said the association had taken the decision to bring action after an outcry from the membership.

If he was reinstated to the association, he said, Mr. Stephens would be able to attend track meets and other athletic association events.

Mr. Stephens, who is originally from Trinidad and Tobago, was in the news last week after it emerged that he had not been deported from the Cayman Islands, as the sentencing judge recommended.

Wesley Howell, chief officer in the Ministry of Home Affairs, told the Compass that the final decision lay with Cabinet.

In an email to the newspaper last week he wrote, “With regard to Mr. Stephens’ case, when weighing all of the circumstances, including the nature of the offence for which he was convicted, and the fact that he has a Caymanian spouse and two Caymanian children, the Cabinet is not considering making a deportation order in this instance at this time.”

Later in the week, Premier Alden McLaughlin subsequently released a statement, suggesting the matter was yet to be decided.

“The Cabinet of the Cayman Islands has not yet considered the court’s recommendation for the deportation of Ato Modibo Stephens.”

The Compass attempted to reach Ms. Mothersille and Mr. Stephens through Ms. Mothersille’s email address, but had received no response by press time.

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