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PC Trapp’s and Min. Espat’s lawyers face off

PoliticsPC Trapp’s and Min. Espat’s lawyers face off

An altercation during the Teakettle village
council elections between Minister Julius Espat
and WPC Alicia Trapp has led one side to call
for an arrest and the other to threaten to bring
a defamation suit if an apology is not given.

BELIZE CITY, Wed. June 8, 2022
What could turn out to be an
extensive legal joust has begun between
the attorneys representing WPC Alicia
Trapp, a female police officer whose
common-law husband was reportedly
a candidate in the recent Teakettle village
elections, and Cayo South area
representative, Minister Julius Espat.
Both sides are making serious
allegations against the other. The initial
allegations were made by WPC Trapp,
who claimed in a Facebook live video
that Minister Julius Espat had made
insulting remarks to her and pointed his
finger near to her face on Sunday
afternoon in front of a Teakettle village
council election polling station. In a
letter sent yesterday to the
Commissioner of Police by Trapp’s
lawyer, well-known UDP attorney
Orson “OJ” Elrington, however, the
nature of her allegations were notched
upward—with references to both
verbal and physical assault being made
in Elrington’s correspondence. The
response from Espat and his legal
representative, Andrew Marshalleck,
SC, was swift. Marshalleck, an
attorney from Barrow & Company
LLP, has sent a letter to WPC Alicia
Trapp demanding an apology for what
he and his client call a “patently false”
statement that “constitutes a grave
libel upon our client”. They have
demanded an apology forthwith for
Elrington’s assertions in the letter to the
COMPOL that Trapp was “verbally
and physically attacked” and a
publication of a retraction statement on
her behalf.
The letter issued by Marshalleck
states, “While you claim to have several
witnesses who are willing to be
witnesses to a criminal trial, if necessary,
we are to say that our client is in

possession of photographs and video
of the surrounding events showing
your behavior and indeed has
witnesses in the hundreds willing to
testify that there was in fact no such
verbal or physical attack by our
client.”
As was reported in the Tuesday
issue of the AMANDALA, in the
Facebook live video, Trapp, who was
dressed in civilian clothing at the time,
claimed that she was approached by
Espat, who attempted to scold her for
her wearing a red shirt and being
under a tent with UDP supporters.
Trapp went on to assert that she was
approached because of the color of
what she was wearing, a red sports
shirt which bore no printed insignia
or message that indicated a UDP
affiliation. She said that as a police
officer of 9 years, she felt ashamed
and disrespected.
“Mr. Julius Espat came to my face
and pointed and tell me I cannot be
[expletive] there underneath the UDP
tent. What’s wrong with this minister,
ah? First Abelardo Mai disrespected
Mrs. Tracy Panton; now this next
minister wah come and disrespect me
just because I da wa police officer
and I inna civilian clothes? And he
tell me I can’t wear no red shirt. What
is wrong with him? I can wear any
color I choose to, and even if I mi
want wear wa white or wa blue shirt,
I know who I will vote for. Da none
ah his business that,” WPC Trapp said
during her live video, in which Espat
could be seen a stone’s throw away.
However, this week, when
interviewed by 7News, Espat gave a
slightly different account of the events
that took place that day and in fact
indicated that it was WPC Trapp who
was initially the aggressor.
“We were out there. There are two
tents out there, as you’re aware of
how politics happens. You had the
UDP tent, which she was under, and
you had the PUP tent where we were.
A supporter of ours came up and took
a picture of her, and I was beside him.
She saw him and took a picture of
her. She walked up to us and
aggressed us and said, ‘Why are you
taking a picture of me?’ And a
conversation started. It was seconds,
and then, it ended. Then all of a
sudden, this thing [got] blown out of
proportion, with so many cameras out
there, so many people there. Every
single movement that is made, if it was
such, an issue would have been
caught on camera. It’s not like you
have to go buy a large Panasonic
camera, these days. Every phone has
a camera on it. And so, she did not—
when she made her statement to the
police is recorded, she did not say it
was physical abuse. Now, today, her
attorney is saying it’s physical abuse
…,” stated Minister Espat.
He further commented, “The only
thing I could say … is when you start
a lie, you have to continue lying. I
PC Trapp’s and Min. Espat’s lawyers face off
Continued from„Page 7 was surprised today when I saw a
letter written by her attorney and to
the Commissioner of Police. It was
sent to me by various media houses.
In that letter, she alleges that I verbally
and physically abused her. But you
have to go back to what happened
when she was doing a live broadcast
of the event, which was supposedly
seconds after we had our
conversation. And in that live, if you
go through it step by step, there is
absolutely no mention of any physical
abuse. And so, all of a sudden now,
a physical abuse allegation comes up.
This is not something that was held
behind closed doors. This was
something that was held in front of
hundreds of people. There were
police officers out there. Everything
is there. So, I am now forced to have
my attorney deal with the situation and
I will. I will take it all the way because
they have now gotten to the point of
defaming my character, and that is
important.”
And indeed a letter was sent
promptly by Hon. Espat’s attorney
to the Commissioner of Police,
Chester Williams. In the letter,
Marshalleck requested an update on
the investigation into the allegations
made against Espat by WPC Trapp,
since a formal report was made on
Sunday evening with allegations of
assault and battery against Espat.
The Commissioner of Police,
Chester Williams, also received a
letter from Trapp’s attorney, OJ
Elrington, who in that piece of
correspondence, challenged
Commissioner Williams’ assertions
that the Public Service Regulations
forbade WPC Trapp from openly
participating as a UDP party supporter
at the village council elections, and
that she would be disciplined for
those actions and for breaching the
police social media policy by making
public comments via a Facebook live
video after the supposed altercation.
(Those comments were made by
Commissioner Williams at a police
press briefing on Monday.)
Elrington in his letter posited that
the COMPOL, by making those
comments, misinformed the public,
and he indicated that any attempt to
punish his client would be met with
“swift legal action,” since, he said, it
would amount to a direct breach of
her constitutional rights.
Elrington is contending that the set
of rules to which his client, a junior
police officer, is subject, is laid out
in the Police Act and not the Public
Service Regulations, as stated by
Williams during an interview with local
media. Williams has actually
confirmed that there are regulations
in the Police Act that outline the code
of conduct required of police officers
like Trapp, but he pointed out that
there are provisions in that legislation
that bar police officers from
involvement in political activities.

According to Commissioner
Williams, going live on social media
for political reasons amounts to a
“major offense” according to
subsections 1(a) and 2 of Section 24A
of the Police Act.
Section 24A 1(a) states that no
police officer shall “in any public
place or in any document or via any
social networking website or other
medium or means of communication,
whether or not within Belize, publish
any information or express any
opinion on matters of national security
interest or with national or
international political implications.”
Elrington’s justification of Trapp’s
behavior, however, hinges on his
focus on subsection 24A 1(b)l, which
appears to suggest that officers are
only barred from holding official roles
and cannot be barred from being a
supporter of a political party.
Subsection 24A (1) is subject to
subsection (3), which states that
police officers may depart from
section 1 if they are acting on official
instruction in the execution of their
duties, or if the information is
published as a lecture approved by
the Commissioner of Police given at
an educational institution, or an article
approved by the Commissioner.
While legal debate is ongoing about
whether Trapp violated the regulations
governing the conduct expected of a
police officer, and whether she should
be subject to disciplinary measures
for any such violation, the United
Democratic Party is calling for a more
severe type of punitive action to be
taken against Hon. Espat. The party
is in fact calling for charges to be
brought against him, and for his
arrest. A press release issued by the
UDP yesterday states, “It has now
been more than 48 hours since the
report was filed and still no charges
have been levied against Espat. To
add insult to injury, the police officer
assaulted by Julius Espat is now
facing disciplinary action by
Commissioner Williams while the
alleged abuser has not even been
approached by police.”
It added, “Police officers are
constantly being abused by PUP
politicians and their goons with no
support from the Commissioner.”

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