Former police officer Daniel Meeks has been convicted of a single count of misconduct in a public office, after attempting to get an elderly woman to add his name to the deed for her property.
The conviction stems from a series of events that occurred in November 2017 when Meeks, 34, was called to a domestic dispute at a George Town home.
The complainant in the matter, who was referred to as Vernice Johnson-Carter in court documents but said she prefers to be called Vernice Johnson, was 71 at the time and had called police on her daughter following a heated dispute between the two women. When Meeks attended the scene, he learned that Johnson’s daughter had damaged the complainant’s phone, the court heard.
The following day, Meeks returned to Johnson’s home, with a gift and a proposition. He gave her a phone, and told her he wanted her help to secure a property for himself.
During the trial, Johnson told the court she could not read well and that Meeks pressured her to add his name to the title of her land; and she did so because he was a police officer.
She said she was taken to a Justice of the Peace and she signed documents that were then submitted to the Department of Lands and Survey. Those documents were processed, and an initial approval was granted, with the condition that a $20,000 stamp duty fee be paid.
However, when Johnson reported the matter to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, Meeks submitted a letter withdrawing the application.
During the trial, Meeks accepted that he had attempted to add his name to Johnson’s property deed, but claimed he was acting upon her request.
When giving evidence, Meeks claimed that it was Johnson who had requested that he add his name to her land, because she was worried that her daughter would not be capable of overseeing the property and she wanted her grandson to inherit it.
Meeks’ attorney, Margeta Facey-Clarke, urged the judge to dismiss the complainant’s evidence, saying she was “an unsatisfactory witness who should not be viewed as credible”.
When returning her guilty verdict on Tuesday, Justice Linda Dobbs said Meeks had provided “no reasonable grounds for his actions”, which were done to “exploit a vulnerable person”.
“I found Ms. Johnson to be an honest witness,” said Dobbs. “She remained firm on who instigated the request for Mr. Meeks to be added to the land.”
The justice added, “The defendant has provided no reasonable grounds for why he returned to the house. He admitted he knew that Ms. Johnson was a vulnerable person. He used his position of trust as a police officer to pressure her into adding him to her land title. I find him guilty of the offence charged.”
Following the decision, Facey-Clarke announced her intention to appeal the conviction, and applied for Meeks’ bail to be extended.
Facey-Clarke argued that Meeks has attended every court hearing during the last two years, despite knowing that there was the possibility he could be imprisoned. Facey-Clarke proposed strict bail conditions.
Prosecutor Candia James-Malcolm opposed bail, saying Meeks’ conviction now changed his circumstances and made him more of a flight risk.
Dobbs granted Meeks bail, on the condition that he provide two sureties at the cost of $10,000 each, and that one of the sureties put a $50,000 lien on his property. Despite being granted bail, Meeks was taken into custody on Tuesday because he was not able to meet the conditions at the time.