A former police officer accused of manipulating an elderly lady into signing over her property to him appeared in Grand Court Tuesday.
Daniel Ezra Meeks, 34, pleaded not guilty to a charge of misconduct in a public office.
Acting Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Candia James-Malcolm who is serving as Crown counsel in the trial, told Justice Linda Dobbs that Meeks’ actions were deliberate, and he tried to take advantage of the complainant because she was vulnerable.
“PC Meeks was called out to a domestic incident at complainant Vernice Johnson-Carter’s home on 10 November 2017,” said James-Malcolm. “Within a week after meeting Johnson, Meeks had convinced her to add him to her property. She did so because she could not read very well.”
James-Malcolm told Justice Dobbs that Meeks was tasked with investigating the domestic incident. However, during that time he made multiple unannounced and uninvited visits to the home in a civilian capacity.
Johnson told the court that she did not want to add Meeks to her land deed, nor did she want to sign the property over to him.
“After he came to the house to deal with the incident, he came back the next day in normal clothes [dressed as a civilian],” said Johnson. “He brought me a phone because my daughter had destroyed mine. He started to tell me he was looking for someone like me to help him get his home.”
“He told me he had two sick children, and that the house that he was living in was too small,” she said. “He said that he needed me to put him on my property to help him get a loan from the bank and that he would only need to be on it for about three years. But I told him I couldn’t do that. He brought me gifts and sent someone to paint my house, but I told the man I didn’t need anybody to paint my home.”
At the time of the alleged incident, Johnson was a 71-year-old unemployed pensioner. She told the courts that she paid off her mortgage in 1995. Johnson said she told Meeks she wanted to leave the $275,000 property to her grandson.
“He told me I had to sign a piece of paper, so I signed it,” said Johnson as she broke down in tears in the witness box. “I signed it because I was alone, afraid and overwhelmed. I can’t read that well, and I didn’t know what I was signing.”
She told the court that days after she signed the document, Meeks returned and took her to a Justice of the Peace to sign additional documents.
“No one read me my rights, no one told me what my rights were,” said Johnson-Carter. “I was taken to the office and in five minutes it was all over.”
During the time the alleged misconduct occurred, Meeks was investigating the domestic incident at Johnson’s house, involving the complainant’s daughter. James-Malcolm said, “He returned to her [Johnson’s] house the day after as a civilian. This was while Johnson’s daughter was still in custody.”
The court heard that on 17 Nov. 2017, Meeks submitted an application to have his name attached to the deed of the property. The application was approved pending a payment of $20,625 in stamp duty.
“After signing the document, I couldn’t sleep because I felt like I had messed up myself,” said Johnson. “So, I called the police and reported it.”
The court heard that a few days after Johnson made the police report, Meeks cancelled the application to add his name to the property.
“The record shows that on 27 November 2017, the Department of Lands and Registry received a letter from Meeks cancelling the application,” said James-Malcolm. “The department also received a letter from Johnson requesting that the application be cancelled.”
James-Malcolm told the court that even if Johnson had gifted the property to Meeks, he could not have accepted it.
“The RCIPS Code of Conduct, as well as the Public Servants Code of Conduct, prevents a person from receiving a gift that could question their personal judgement in carrying out the role of their office,” she said. “Because Meeks was the investigation officer, he could not accept such a gift. Furthermore, even if he accepted it, the codes of conduct required him to declare any gift valued more that CI$25. So, the question is why didn’t he declare it?”
At the time of the alleged incident, Meeks had been serving as a police constable for six years. Following the police report, an internal investigation was initiated into the officer; however, no charges were filed by the department. His request for renewal of his contract was declined in December 2017.
Meeks denies the allegations and the trial continues.