Denver Stuart, a resident of Sandhill Village and father of nine, today visited Amandala to complain about a $250 bribe paid by to an officer of the Magistrate’s Court #1, Police Constable #764 Tedford “Jordan” Augustine almost a month ago.
Stuart said that he must commend the Police’s Internal Affairs Department for attending to the problem and holding a tribunal, but the outcome of the tribunal is upsetting to him.
Stuart said that he appeared in Magistrate’s Court #1 on October 2, where he was read charges of aggravated assault with a weapon, which he explained was a pellet gun. Stuart said that he pleaded not guilty to the charge and was told by Chief Magistrate Herbert Lord that he would be remanded for at least 90 days in the first instance.
He explained to the court that he had a family to attend to, and asked for the court’s mercy. He was told that he could change his plea, but had to reappear at 2:00 that afternoon. While he was in the holding cell at the court, he was approached by Augustine, the court’s prosecutor, who told him that the Chief Magistrate would cut a deal with him if he would plead guilty to the charge. He would be given a lenient fine, Augustine said, but would also have to give Lord $250 to ensure his release.
At 2:00 on his reappearance in court, he changed his plea, but was asked by Mr. Lord why he did so. Stuart said that he thought that the Magistrate was aware of what was happening because Augustine had used his (Lord’s) name, and told the court that he only changed his plea because he thought that he, the magistrate, would be lenient.
He was fined $800, to be paid in two installments by the end of October. Before he could make it down the court steps, Augustine followed him and asked him what happened. That was when he tuned to his employer, Jim Cypert, and asked him for the money and gave it to Augustine.
Cypert was puzzled, and the following day after Stuart had explained why he gave Augustine the money, Cypert visited the Magistrate’s Court to see the Chief Magistrate. He met Lord, but before he held a conversation with him he met a sergeant, to whom he related the story. The sergeant asked him to wait and later took him over to Racoon Street Police Station, where he made the report, Cypert told Amandala.
He spoke with the head of the Internal Affairs Department (IAD), Calbert Flowers, and was told that the matter would be investigated. IAD summoned Denver Stuart and his wife, Shirlene, and also his employer to be present at a tribunal on Tuesday of this week, December 5. According to the summons, “During the trial you shall be examined under oath, since you are considered to give material evidence on behalf of the prosecution.”
Stuart said that they never even stepped inside the tribunal room. As a matter of fact, a couple minutes after waiting, they were informed by one Sergeant Romero that P. C. Augustine pleaded guilty to the charge of acting “to the prejudice of good order and discipline” and was fined by the tribunal. Additionally, he had been ordered to pay back the $250, in three payments. His payments won’t begin until Friday, January 15, 2007, Stuart said that they were told.
“Just a fine!! After he disrespected the court and lied on the CHIEF MAGISTRATE,” Stuart said angrily. He added that he is not worried about the money that was extorted from him, but believes that Augustine should have been reprimanded, suspended and charged criminally.
Late this evening Amandala spoke with an officer of Internal Affairs Department countrywide, who said that he knows that Calbert Flowers, head of IAD in Belize District, was attending to the case. However, he was not aware that it had concluded.
He said that any issue concerning policemen is left solely up to the decision of the Commissioner of Police, Gerald Westby, as to whether or not it would be dealt with internally or criminally. His decision was to deal with the matter internally; hence the reason why Augustine was not charged criminally. Additionally, the reason that Stuart did not have to go in to the tribunal was because Augustine pleaded guilty to the charge.