General — 07 June 2017 — by Rowland A. Parks
Firearms examiner, Orlando Vera, found guilty of abetment to pervert the course of justice

He offered to tamper with evidence so that the charge would be thrown out

BELIZE CITY, Fri. June 2, 2017–A National Forensic Science Service Center employee, Orlando Vera, who is a firearms examiner and ballistics expert, was convicted on a charge of abetment of perverting the course of justice this morning. Chief Magistrate Ann Marie Smith remanded Vera to prison until his sentencing day on Thursday, June 8.

Since the incident for which Vera was charged occurred in Belmopan, the case was tried in the Belmopan Magistrate’s Court, but the final submissions were made in the Belize City Magistrate’s Court, where the Chief Magistrate also delivered the guilty verdict.

The allegation against Vera arose from incidents that occurred between June 1 and July 31, 2015. The trial began in the Belmopan Magistrate’s Court on March 7, 2017. On May 25, final closing arguments were made in the Belize City Magistrate’s Court.

In handing down her decision, Chief Magistrate Smith explained that the Crown had to prove the elements of the offense, namely that the defendant did an act and that act was to pervert the course of justice and that the defendant intended that the course of justice be perverted by his act. The Crown’s evidence was led by Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl-Lynn Vidal, while Vera was defended by attorney Anthony Sylvestre.

The case against Vera is that he attempted to pervert the course of justice when he told businessman Michael Modiri that he could assist him to win a case that he had pending with three charges for possession of an unlicensed firearm and unlicensed ammunition and for possession of a prohibited material (a silencer).

On May 2, 2015, police busted Modiri on the Hummingbird Highway with a .22 Mossberg International 715T long rifle with a scope and silencer, and a hundred and ninety .22 caliber rounds of ammunition.

Modiri was charged with keeping a firearm without a gun license, keeping ammunition without a gun license and keeping a prohibited material with respect to the silencer.

The rifle, the ammunition and silencer were taken to the National Forensic Science Service Center and given to the exhibit manager, Renie Moh.

In his conversation with Modiri, Vera, who was employed at the center, told him that he could assist him in freeing himself from the charges against him by tampering with the evidence and by making some of the bullets “disappear,” which would take care of the unlicensed firearm charge.

Unbeknown to Vera, however, Modiri recorded his conversation, which was used in the Crown’s evidence against Vera, and Vera, when he gave his unsworn statement from the dock, did not refute that the voice on the recording was his voice.
In his defense, Vera told the court, “The audio in front of the court does not reflect all of the conversations I had with Mr. Modiri. I offered advice on the matter against him…”

Chief Magistrate Smith said, “I am of the view that the evidence before the Court is overwhelmingly in favor of the Crown and extremely damaging towards the defendant. The recording, as transcribed, has the defendant, Orlando Vera, making extremely damning comments….”

Modiri, who was the Crown’s main witness, told the court that he met the defendant at a meeting in June or July 2015, and the defendant told him that he could assist him with winning his case, because he knew that he was innocent.

“Having read the submissions from both parties, listened to the oral arguments, and reviewed the oral testimony of all witnesses, and re-listened to the recording, I am of the considered view that the Crown has proved all elements of the offence before the Court. As I set out earlier, the offence of abetment is committed when the defendant instigates, commands, counsels, procures or solicits. There can be no other description of Mr. Vera’s behavior apart from instigating and counseling the ‘meddling’ with the silencer and the proposal to have some rounds of ammunition go missing. I see no merit in the argument of the defense that the report was not delayed and so no crime had been committed,” Chief Magistrate Smith said in her judgment.

She added, “The testimony of Michael Modiri remained unchallenged, as it was never put to him that he was lying or that the conversation regarding the interference with the silencer and the proposed arrangement for some bullets to go missing never took place, and so the credibility of Mr. Modiri remains intact.”

“Having said all of the above, I am satisfied that the Crown has proved all the elements of the offence, and I find Mr. Vera guilty of abetment to pervert the course of justice,” Chief Magistrate Smith declared.

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