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Machel Montano and Songwriter Kernel Roberts Appeal Dropped by State

THE State has abandoned one of its arguments in an appeal filed by soca artiste Machel Montano and songwriter Kernel Roberts who were both convicted four years ago of assaulting several people outside a night club in Port of Spain in 2007.

Machel Montano, and songwriter Kernel Roberts, left, leave the Port of Spain Magistrate's Court in this file photo. —Photo: STEPHEN DOOBA

Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) George Busby on Wednesday informed Appeal Court Justices Alice Yorke-Soo Hon and Mark Mohammed that despite his best efforts, he was unable to find any authorities to support the contention which he had previously made earlier this year.

That contention was in relation to (former) magistrate Maureen Baboolal-Gafoor, who had listened to the case in Port of Spain's Magistrates' Court, not giving a written ruling at the end of the trial and outlining her reasoning on how she was able to arrive at the decision which she did.

The magistrate had found both appellants guilty of assaulting Gerard Bowrin, Janelle Lee Chee, Brandis Browne and Russell Pollonais during a fracas at the Zen nightclub at the corner of Keate and Frederick Streets, Port of Spain, on April 26, 2007. Roberts was found guilty of assaulting both Browne and Pollonais.

Two other artistes, Joel “Zan” Feveck and Rodney “Benjai” LeBlanc, who were also charged alongside Montano and Roberts, were found not guilty. Baboolal-Gafoor had ordered Montano to pay compensation totalling $13,500 and fines totalling $13,700. Roberts was ordered to pay compensation totalling $11,000 and fines totalling $13,000.

When the appeal first came up for hearing in January, Montano's lead attorney Jagdeo Singh stated that the magistrate failed to put into writing, as is required by law, her reasons for arriving at her decision.

In response to this, Busby stated Baboolal-Gafoor had since retired from the magistracy, but he went on to inform the court that he wrote a letter to then-Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar earlier this week regarding the issue and that she subsequently made contact with Baboolal-Gafoor.

Busby had said Baboolal-Gafoor stated she was willing to put her reasons in writing by March if it was so needed. However, Singh challenged the legality of the position adopted by the State. He said Baboolal-Gafoor is now retired and does not have the legal authority to do so.

“It is not like in the case of a judge that when you retire you have to be sworn back in if your service is further needed. Once the magistrate leaves office, she has no jurisdiction,” said Singh. In the end, the court agreed that the State should be allowed the opportunity to have Baboolal-Gafoor put her reasons in writing.

However, when the matter was recalled yesterday, Busby agreed with Singh's submissions, saying he had no choice but to abandon the argument, as he was unable to find any authorities to support his previous argument.

Apart from this, the matter was unable to proceed any further during the hearing as Busby asked the court's permission to grant him additional time to file submissions on his other arguments. He was granted until June 13 to do so.

Also appearing for Montano in the appeal are attorneys Larry Williams, Keil Tacklalsingh, Vivek Lakhan-Joseph and Criston J Williams, while attorneys Keith Scotland, Daniel Khan, Asha Watkins-Montserin and Raphael Morgan appeared for Roberts. The appeal will be recalled on July 18.

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