A Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital nurse’s aide, Bernadette Samuels, 53, who suffers from hypertension and had to be hospitalized after a Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) search of her Far West Street home uncovered two .9mm rounds and two small portions of cannabis, was spared prison time when she was arraigned before Senior Magistrate Sharon Frazer on Tuesday.
Samuels is among the few persons charged under the amended Firearms Act mandating automatic remand to prison for persons caught with unlicensed firearm or ammunition, who have not been remanded to prison.
That she did not enter the remand section of the Central Prison, however, is not attributed to any abandonment of the rigid prescription of the Firearms Act, but was caused by what her attorney characterized as “negligence on the part of the police who failed in their responsibility to take her to court.”
Attorney Bryan Neal, who is representing Samuels and five others in the case, including two high school students who were all remanded to prison when they were arraigned on the ammunition charge on April 14, was able to secure Supreme Court bail prior to Samuel’s court appearance.
Had she been taken to court before the Supreme Court granted her bail, despite her serious illness, she would have gone from her hospital bed to a prison cell.
After the charges were read to her, an obviously ill Samuels, leaning on one of her sisters, pleaded not guilty to the three charges police brought against her.
The charges include one count of possession of unlicensed ammunition for two .9 mm rounds that the GSU allegedly found at her house, when they searched it on Sunday, April 13. She was also charged along with the five other accused persons, for possession of a controlled drug for 2 grams of cannabis.
In addition, she alone was booked on another “possession of controlled drug” charge for 4.4 grams of cannabis the police search yielded.
Samuels and the other accused are expected back in court on May 9.
After the court hearing, Amandala asked Neal how he managed to prevent Samuels from being remanded to prison.
“I myself, had to risk my own freedom,” Neal explained, “to go and take someone out of the KHMH and bring her to court. That was the duty of the police to take a remanded person before the court.”
Neal said that since the police had failed in their duty, “as a good defense counsel, I was trying to secure this lady’s release.”
He added: “She has been in the KHMH and the police had not seen it fit to bring her to court.”
Asked to explain how it was that he managed to secure bail for Samuels before she had been arraigned on the unlicensed ammunition charge, Neal said that he had assumed that the police had brought her to court, since the incident occurred two weeks ago.
“But after I had secured the bail and was about to get the bail form signed for her release from prison, it was then I was informed that she was never brought to court,” he said.
Neal explained that he had to return the bail form to Madam Justice Antoinette More to get it signed.
“There was no objection from the Director of Public Prosecution to granting her bail,” he said, and added, “I’m trying to get this lady back to her home. She has already suffered a stressful situation.”