BELIZE CITY, Mon. May 15, 2017–The Smith sisters from Majestic Alley, Muteesha and Leesha, had an encounter with police officers from the Northern Strike Team that landed them in court on serious criminal charges, but after the prosecution closed its case and two witnesses testified on their behalf, Chief Magistrate Ann Marie Smith acquitted the sisters of the charges.
Muteesha, 21, was charged with assaulting a police officer, while Leesha, 20, was charged with harm, resisting arrest, escape from lawful custody and loitering
“I am not going to find them guilty, because I find that the police behavior was heavy-handed and uncalled for,” Chief Magistrate Smith said, when the case ended this evening.
The incident in connection with which police laid the charges on the Smith sisters occurred on Wednesday, December 7, 2016, at approximately 1:30 p.m. when police officers from the Northern Strike Team were on mobile patrol and stopped in Majestic Alley, where they saw Leesha Smith sitting on a rock with a tablet in her hand. She was surfing the internet.
Woman Police Constable, Mariela Garcia, saw her sitting on the rock and decided to approach her.
At the trial last week, Garcia testified, “my attention was drawn to about 7 women who were seated on the sidewalk, opposite the apartment building.”
Garcia testified that she exited the mobile and warned the women that they were loitering and they needed to move.
Garcia described how one of the women, who was about 5 feet 4 inches tall and was wearing a peach-colored blouse and a pair of long blue jeans pants, remarked that she was “tired of these f—ing police di bother me like they don’t have nothing else to do.”
Garcia went on to testify that some of the women moved away and the mobile unit left the area, but returned a few minutes later, this time from the North Front Street side, and she saw the same woman in the peach blouse and jeans pants.
Garcia said she approached the woman and told her that she had been warned about loitering. “I then informed the female about the offense committed, loitering. I cautioned her and detained her, but the female was pulling away from me,” she said. Garcia said she managed to put the female in the mobile.
Garcia and the female, whose name she did not yet know, began to struggle, and she claimed that the female scratched her from behind. She was seated in the front passenger seat, while the female she had detained, Leesha Smith, was seated in the back seat.
Garcia said that at the police station, she was given a police medico/legal form and visited the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH), where a doctor attended to her and classified her injury as harm.
While Garcia’s testimony sounds like a sanitized version of the events of that afternoon, Leesha Smith, under cross-examination, told the officer that she had choked her and then flung her into the police mobile. Smith said that she had to be taken to the KHMH and treated for her injuries.
Today, she took the medical report to show the court that she had sustained injuries as a result of the rough manner in which the police officer had handled her.
Smith’s claim was substantiated by two witnesses whom she called to give evidence on her behalf.
Longtime Majestic Alley resident Lorna Wade testified that the police were aggressive in handling Leesha Smith. Wade came upon the scene as it was unfolding, so she could not tell the court about the verbal exchange between Leesha and WPC Mariela Garcia, who testified that Leesha told her all the policemen must be “f—ing her out.”
Another witness who testified on behalf of the two sisters was a 14-year-old minor who told the court that she saw the woman police officer hit Leesha. The minor said she was standing across the street as the event unfolded.
Another prosecution witness, PC Wilfredo Cho, testified that when he cautioned the two women, they remained silent and did not speak.