BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Dec. 29, 2016–Alfonso Noble, host of the Fus Thing Da Mawnin talk show on Wave Radio/TV and editor of the Guardian newspaper, propaganda organs of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP), spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day in police custody at the Racoon Street Police Station, after he knocked down and killed Hattieville resident, Gilbert Myers, 48, popularly known as “Thready” or “Tyson,” on Christmas Eve night, December 24, between Miles 3 and 4 on the George Price Highway.
On Wednesday morning, representatives from the city’s media corps gathered outside the Magistrate’s Court, as the police van transporting detained persons arrived and Noble, his face appearing tired from the many hours in police custody, climbed out of the van and was escorted to the court’s holding cell area.
After his matter was assigned to Senior Magistrate Sharon Fraser, Noble sat inside courtroom #2 with his arms folded and his back against the wall, occasionally leaning his head against the wall as he stared at the ceiling, avoiding eye contact with reporters in the courtroom, as he waited for the arraignment hearing to begin.
Magistrate Fraser, after asking him his age and address, proceeded to read the first charge of manslaughter by negligence to the thirty-nine-year-old Western Pines resident.
After reading the charge, Magistrate Fraser asked him if he understood what she had just read. Noble, represented by attorney Herbert Panton, a former editor of the Guardian, indicated that he understood the charge.
At that point, Magistrate Fraser informed him that the charge is indictable and would be heard at the Supreme Court, after a preliminary inquiry is completed.
Accident victim: Gilbert Myers, aka “Thready” or “Tyson”
Magistrate Fraser then read the second charge of causing death by careless conduct, then the third charge of failure to provide a specimen to Corporal Chub, who had requested a blood sample from Noble for testing. The fourth charge, that he drove a motor vehicle without due care and attention, was then read to Noble.
Magistrate Fraser then asked the court prosecutor, Corporal Christopher Smith, whether or not he would be objecting to bail for Noble.
Corporal Smith stood up and arranged some papers in front of him for a few seconds, before he told the court that he was not objecting to the court granting Noble bail.
Magistrate Fraser offered Noble bail in the sum of $5,000 plus one surety in the same amount or two sureties of $2,500 each.
Attorney Panton rose to point out to the court that the police had not followed the standard procedure of issuing a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) to his client, but had gone ahead and charged him without consulting with the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“I hope that they will have disclosure ready when they come back to court,” Panton told the court, as the next court date was set for February 28. The prosecution was ordered by Magistrate Fraser to provide disclosure to Noble on that date.
Outside the courtroom, reporters waited until after Noble had finished posting bail, in the hopes that he would answer a few question, but when he emerged from the Clerk of Court section, there was an evident smirk on his face. He grinned and rushed down the steps, passing the waiting reporters. He declined to make a comment to Myers’ family, when he was prompted by KREM’s News Director, Marisol Amaya.
In declining comment, Noble missed the opportunity to show remorse or offer his condolences to the family whose breadwinner he had knocked down and killed.
Reporters also asked Panton about Noble’s refusal to give police a blood sample.
Panton replied: “There are people who refuse to give [a] blood specimen for religious reasons, but we will get to that at trial.”
“What about a urine sample, sir; wouldn’t that suffice?” Panton was asked.
“The request was specifically for blood; there was no request made [for urine] according to the facts that I read; the request was specifically for blood,” Panton replied.
Panton was also asked whether it was under legal advice that Noble chose not to comply with providing a blood sample or whether it was his own decision.
“As far as I am aware, Mr. Noble chose not to provide samples for religious reasons,” Panton offered.
“What religion is Noble?” Panton was asked.
Sounding a bit annoyed with the question, Panton replied, “Man, which religion you know? Let [us] not get into semantics here.”
When he was asked the question a second time, Panton’s response was: “I believe he is Jehovah’s Witness.”
In the wake of attorney Panton’s public assertion that Noble’s refusal to give police a blood sample was because of religious reasons, there was a firestorm of criticism on social media, where photographs of Noble donating blood—contrary to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ doctrine—were posted. A retraction from Panton followed late this evening.
“In my interview with members of the media yesterday, I informed them that it was my view that my client, Mr. Alfonso Noble, is a member of the Jehovah’s Witness faith. It has come to my attention since then that Mr. Noble is not a Jehovah’s Witness. I have also learnt from a leader in the Jehovah’s Witness that one of the doctrines of the faith is that they do not receive blood in respect of blood transfusion; there is no such doctrine with regards to the giving of blood, particularly in circumstances of a Police investigation,” Panton’s statement said.
“In any event, it is Mr. Noble’s constitutional right to refuse to give a blood sample,” the attorney added.
In his interview on Tuesday, Panton said that police moved too swiftly to charge his client to pander to the media.
“The normal course in any vehicle accident [is], a notice of intended prosecution is given. The police conclude their investigation. This matter is an indictable matter; this matter has to go to the Supreme Court, so that information is then forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who gives an opinion on whether or not to lay charges. The police, in their infinite wisdom, chose to charge my client, immediately suggesting that they are pandering to the media. Now if it is that they are pandering — if you are a leader and the basis on which you act is whether or not you will take flak in the media, I would want to suggest that you lost the moral authority to lead. Could you imagine holding this man all over the Christmas holidays? And I could almost guarantee you, come the February 28 they won’t have the disclosure that the magistrate ordered,” remarked Panton.
The accident occurred shortly before 8:00 p.m. on December 24, after Noble was seen inside Chon Sing Restaurant near Majestic Alley, socializing with friends. He had then left to go home to 360 Western Paradise, in the Guardian’s Nissan pickup.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Chester Williams told reporters on Wednesday that Noble was not singled out because of his known political affiliation with the UDP, but he was kept in police custody for his own safety.
ACP Williams explained: “What the police were interested in first and foremost was to do things the right way and to do it by the books. We did not want to have any misstep in the investigation. We didn’t want to blunder with the investigation and it is not unprecedented that a person is kept in custody after an accident; this has been done before. The police would normally issue an NIP in circumstances where it is difficult to ascertain what may have occurred on the scene, so the police investigation process will take a little while longer, so the police would normally do that.
“But from the police investigative view, if they are of the belief that a certain person may have been at fault, the police can proceed and prefer charges immediately without issuing an NIP and in this case that is exactly what we did, and Mr. Noble, I can tell you, was not singled out because he is affiliated with any political party, and he understands what it is we were doing.
“I explained to him the process and I must say that he cooperated in terms of how he was – his entire behavior towards the investigation as well as at the police station, I must say, was very good. And the process, I explained to him and he understood.”
Notwithstanding ACP Williams’ assertion that Noble was cooperating with the police, reporters also asked him about Noble’s refusal to give a specimen to police, citing the religious reasons his attorney had advanced, and they also enquired if he had appeared inebriated.
ACP Williams’ response was, “I don’t know where Mr. Panton normally gets his things from, but that is his defense. The law does provide that the police may request blood or urine specimen and that was done, so even if, as Mr. Panton is saying, for religious reasons he did not want to extract blood; religion does not stop you from peeing and that’s the alternative that we have other than extracting blood; and both processes were refused by Mr. Noble in relation to the investigation.”
ACP Williams also confirmed: “I was on the scene. I’m not a doctor. I cannot say whether or not he was drunk, as the case may be, but I can say that he spoke well. But being actually drunk and legally drunk is two different things.”
The accident victim, Gilbert Myers, worked as a security officer for the former Belize City Council under Mayor Zenaida Moya. Myers was also Moya’s bodyguard.
Andrade Roberts, 22, the son of Myers, told Amandala on Thursday morning that it was not unusual for his father to be riding from Belize City to their home in Hattieville.
“It is perfectly normal for him to be riding his bicycle on the highway. That is not something new,” Roberts told Amandala. “He even rides his bicycle from here to Boom, from here to Mile 31, even to Belmopan,” he noted.
Roberts said the last time he saw his father he was lying down asleep in his bed.
“I never did get to see him when he left for Belize City in the evening. I only saw him when I got up to go to work in the morning,” Roberts said.
Roberts told us that he learned of the fatal accident when he was at his cousin’s house and he got a call from his mother, who told him that his father was dead.
“A guy who lives up here saw him on the road dead and came and told my mother,” Roberts said.
The son, who only recently started working, told us that Myers was the sole provider at home.
Roberts said he will remember the fun times he had with his father, with whom he had a solid bond. He said the family will try to do what they can legally, to get justice for the huge loss that his father’s death represents to their family.