AG: “Verdict will undoubtedly be the standard by which we will be bound”
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis yesterday called the not guilty verdict in the bribery trial of former Cabinet minister Shane Gibson a “miracle”.
Davis insisted the Free National Movement (FNM) took advantage of its position as guardians of the state and allowed an “injustice to be wreaked upon Shane Gibson and his family”.
Gibson faced 15 counts of bribery in relation to $280,000 that he allegedly received from contractor Jonathan Ash as an inducement to approve payments of $1 million for work done following the cleanup efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.
The jury yesterday found Gibson non-guilty on each count.
Outside the Supreme Court, beside Gibson, his wife, and dozens of supporters and relatives, , Davis said he and his colleagues had prayed for the outcome and were pleased the jurors viewed the case as they did.
“This case should never have been brought,” he said.
“It should not have gone to the jury. It was clear from the start that this was simply victor’s justice; the political party in power taking advantage of its position as guardians of the state to oppress the political minority.
“Prime Minister [Dr.] Hubert Minnis goes down in history of our country as the meanest and most vengeful prime minister: one who sought to divide instead of uniting.
Davis also accused the attorney general of allowing “politics to drive the prosecution of a political opponent”.
“We know that the evidence was contaminated in this case by reason of bringing witnesses together to discuss and remove ambiguities and difference between them,” the PLP leader said.
“Once revealed the trial should have been stopped.”
Justice Carolita Bethel, who summarized and guided jurors before their deliberation, said it was “extremely wrong” for the investigator to interview prospective witnesses in the matter together and it should have never have happened.
Assistant Superintendent Deborah Thompson met Ash, Deborah Bastian and their lawyers on September 25, 2017, to clear up ambiguities in their statements, the court heard. Under cross examination, Thompson admitted in hindsight she realized that was wrong, but maintained only minor changes were made.
The judge said it was for the jury to determine whether those changes did harm to the case or whether after examination of the matter and the evidence they were left with the impression that Ash was telling the truth.
Outside the court, an emotional Gibson said after taking some time to reflect on the outcome, he would speak with his legal team about next steps.
Yesterday, Davis said the matter should not go without inquiry with a view of ensuring justice is done.
“I am deeply disappointed in the FNM,” he said.
“They all stood and allowed this injustice to be wreaked upon Shane Gibson and his family.
“At the end of the day, the jury got it right.”
Davis thanked Gibson’s legal team and said the PLP will continue to pray for Gibson and his family, who were vilified and unjustly accused.
He said: “As Mr. Gibson returns to private life, it is my hope that he and his family, will find solace in this victory and that he will find a measure of peace and justice in what happened in this court today.”
When contacted, Attorney General Carl Bethel said the director of public prosecutions has no intention of appealing the case.
“A complaint was made by a contractor to the police that a minister demanded money to release a hold on payments during the hurricane relief efforts after Hurricane Matthew,” Bethel said.
“He made payments and the money flowed afterwards. He also complained that the minister continued to demand payments.
“The police investigated and found evidence of a continuing relationship and payments by the contractor. There was sufficient evidence in the opinion of the DPP to warrant prosecution.
Bethel continued: “The judge assessed the evidence and the law and determined that the defendant had a case to answer. Without any answer from the defendant, and with only one character witness, the jury assessed the evidence and found the minister not guilty of bribery.
“The jury have spoken and every Bahamian must live with that conclusion.
“The jury are judges of the facts and if they conclude that the facts presented do not amount to bribery then this verdict will undoubtedly be the standard by which we will be bound to judge any such future conduct by public officials in The Bahamas,” Bethel said.
Gibson opted not to take the witness stand.
The judge reminded jurors during her summation of the case that Gibson had a right to do so and rely on the evidence he provided to police during his interview.