Headline — 08 February 2013 — by Albert J. Ciego
Mark King disgraced – barred from Cabinet for 3 months

The Lake I area rep charged with aggravated assault, threatening words and disorderly conduct for Corozal Free Zone “ministerial tantrum”

Shortly after 10 this morning at the Corozal Magistrate’s Court, Hon. Mark King, area representative of the Lake I constituency and Minister of State in the Ministry of Human Development and Social Transformation, was arraigned on charges of aggravated assault, threatening words and disorderly conduct. The charge of assaulting a police officer was brought against him, but this was withdrawn by the prosecution, because the aggravated assault charge already covered that offense.

He pleaded not guilty and was released on bail of $4,000 and ordered to return to court on April 19, 2013. He was represented by attorney Ellis Arnold, who, when King was being taken to the police station to sign his bail, told his client not to speak with the media.

King had to wait for a man from Orange Walk, one Martin Hernandez, to travel to Corozal to sign the surety for the bail, before he was released.

While waiting for his surety, the Minister did not have to wait in the discomfort of a holding cell. Rather, he was kept in the court building office. After he was released, he left in his private vehicle en route to Belize City.

The charges arose out of an incident that occurred in the wee hours of Tuesday, sometime after 2 in the morning, beginning in the Princess Casino at the Corozal Free Zone.

Reports are that while at the Princess Casino in the Free Zone, Diego Witz, Jr., who was along with Mark King, was taken out of the casino after casino security officers found him engaging a young woman in the male bathroom.

According to the police’s report of Tuesday, February 5, “a uniformed police [PC Ramos of the Corozal Police Formation] was standing outside the casino when he saw the security guard from the casino escorting a male person out of the casino. Thereafter, the security guards escorted another male person out of the casino, as the male person was behaving disorderly.

“He learnt the first male person’s name to be Diego Witz, Jr., a Belizean businessman of Punta Gorda Town, who came back to where the second male person was being escorted out and attempted to hit one of the security guards. The police then intervened and Diego Witz reportedly pushed him and punched him in the face.

“A struggle ensued where Diego Witz, Jr., was subdued …he was later escorted to the Corozal Police Station pending charges.”

That Tuesday morning release from the police made no mention of Mark King’s involvement in the casino incident.

But by midday Tuesday, the Cabinet, in an attempt to get out ahead of the story, issued a release, citing that Police were expected to charge King for the incident, and that the Prime Minister had suspended him from his Minister of State duties without pay, with immediate effect.

The following day, Wednesday, a police press release finally detailed Mark King’s involvement in the casino affair. The police report said that after Witz was arrested and the police were waiting for a mobile unit, Hon. Mark King, Minister of State in the Ministry of Human Development and Social Transformation, “intervened to have Witz released. Witz was put in the pan of the mobile unit and Mark King reportedly got into the pan and allegedly threatened and assaulted the police officer.”

Police in that report said that they have since arrested and charged the 38-year-old Mark King with aggravated assault, threatening words and disorderly conduct.

Witz, Jr., was taken to the Corozal Magistrate’s Court, where he was charged about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday evening. He was granted bail of $4,000 and ordered to return to court, on Wednesday, April 10.

King was released on police bail and ordered to return to the Corozal Magistrate’s Court today, Thursday.

And while King would not speak to the media this morning in Corozal, he did comply with a Cabinet directive on Tuesday to issue a statement of apology to his constituents, colleagues and the country.

In his short apology, King said that while he was involved in the casino incident which resulted in “a breach of the peace” and charges to be laid against him, he makes “no admission of wrongdoing and will take all necessary steps to be properly represented at the trial of those charges.”

Mark King is the second Minister or Minister of State to face criminal charges. Former Minister of Rural Development Marcial Mes was criminally charged during the second term of the PUP administration for knocking down two children.

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