Gibson acquitted of all bribery charges

Gibson acquitted of all bribery charges
Former Cabinet Minister Shane Gibson speaks to media outside the Supreme Court. (FILE PHOTO)

AG confirms DPP has “no intention” to appeal

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Relieved and tearful, former Minister of Labour Shane Gibson held up his hands with his wife Jacqueline outside the Supreme Court yesterday evening after being acquitted of the 15 counts of bribery brought against him more than two years ago.

It took the nine-member jury less than three hours to deliberate and reach a verdict after Justice Carolita Bethel handed the case over to the jurors around 3:20 pm.

When the jurors returned to the courtroom just after 5 pm, they delivered an unanimous not-guilty verdict on all counts except two.

Jurors returned an 8:1 not-guilty to guilty verdict on count six and count seven.

Before excusing jurors to deliberate on the evidence of the case, Justice Carolita Bethel advised jurors that a unanimous or two-thirds majority ruling would be accepted.

When the jury foreman advised the court of the not-guilty verdict to each of the counts, supporters in the gallery shouted “praise the Lord” and raised their hands in the air.

Relieved and tearful, former Cabinet minister Shane Gibson is flanked by his lawyer Damian Gomez (left) and his wife Jacqueline (right) as he exits the court.

Gibson, who struggled to hold back tears, looked to the ceiling with his eyes closed.

He left the dock and embraced lead defense attorney Keith Knight, QC, before hugging relatives, who he joined in the gallery.

Flanked by celebratory supporters, family members, and his legal team outside the court, Gibson told reporters: “Only God could deliver you.”

“I want to thank my wife of 33 years for standing by my side every step along the way; for praying with me every single say; for speaking over me; speaking over my life and just supporting me in every which way possible,” he said with tears in his eyes.

Gibson thanked his legal team, which includes Knight, Damian Gomez, QC; Philip ‘Fish’ McKenzie and Owen Wells.

He also thanked the jurors, whom he acknowledged had an “awesome responsibility” to examine all of the evidence over the six-week trial.

Gibson continued: “At the end of the day, my freedom lied in their hands and they decided without a shadow of a doubt that I was not guilty of the charges brought against me.”

“I am going to speak much more to my future and more details about what actually transpired because as you know I did not take the stand because legally, I did not have to,” he said.

“We thought their case was so weak, we said I did not have to take the stand because we knew they could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I did what they said I did.

“And so, I want to thank everybody, those who I named and those who I did not name who came out and supported me; either being here, praying for me; sending me words of encouragement; or sending words of encouragement through my family members, to make sure that I knew that they were looking out for me.”

Gibson also thanked Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis and Bishop Neil Ellis, both of whom stood beside him outside the courtroom.

He said: “There is nothing like when a bishop knows you and he knows what you’re capable of and what you’re not capable of.”

Gibson thanked supporters, some of whom he named, family and friends, and the constituents from Golden Gates.

Former Minister of Social Services Melanie Griffin, former Public Hospitals Authority Chairman Frank Smith, who was acquitted of bribery and extortion allegations in August, and former Prime Minister Perry Christie, who embraced Gibson, were all outside the courtroom.

Former Prime Minister Perry Christie embraces former Cabinet minister Shane Gibson outside the Supreme Court, after a nine-member delivered a non-guilty verdict to the 15 counts of bribery brought against him.

Outside court, Knight said had the case been investigated in the “normal way”, no charge would have been brought against Gibson.

He added the trial should have never reached the point it did.

“But the Lord works in mysterious way, his wonders to perform because the case had been vigorously prosecuted and what has happened is, nine citizens of The Bahamas said Shane Gibson is not guilty,” Knight said.

“If there was a verdict in The Bahamas of innocent, they would have returned the verdict of innocent because I stand beside a client who in my heart, in my head and within my soul I feel is an innocent man.

“And so, I personally — because I am a friend of The Bahamas — hope that never again in the justice system will we see a case like this. Persons brought before the court must be fairly brought and fairly treated and fairly judged. He was not fairly brought.”

Gibson also expressed grave concern about how the case was handled by authorities, and suggested while he was focused on allowing himself and his family to reflect on the outcome, he and his legal team will consider the next options, including legal recourse.

No appeal

When contacted last night, Attorney General Carl Bethel confirmed the director of public prosecutions has no intention to appeal the acquittal.

Bethel noted the jury’s deliberation was made without any answer from the defendant, and with only one character witness.

In a statement, he said: “The jury have spoken and every Bahamian must live with that conclusion.”

Bethel added: “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.”

Extremely wrong

Before their deliberation, the judge advised jurors to judge the case on the evidence, reminding them it was their responsibility to reach a fair verdict.

Justice Bethel spent nearly four hours summating the case of the crown and that of the defense, retracking meticulously through witness testimony throughout the trial included that of the prosecution’s key witness.

She recalled the details surrounding the September 25, 2017, meeting investigator Assistant Superintendent Deborah Thompson had with Ash, Bastian and their lawyers to clear up ambiguities in their statements, saying that “should never have been done”.

Under cross examination, Thompson admitted in hindsight she realized it was wrong to interview the prospective witnesses together.

The defense made the case that this was evidence of a conspiracy against Gibson.

Justice Bethel said there will always be inconsistencies in a case and if there were none “you might consider that they got together, which is what Assistant Superintendent Thompson did which was extremely wrong.”

She said: “You have to look at whether the inconsistencies go to the roof of the case of whether they are trivial; whether the truth is being told.”

She also told jurors: “You have to — members of the jury — determine whether it does great harm to the case. The statement that was altered carried the date 28th June …If under examination, you are left with the impression that he (Ash) is telling the truth, that is for you to judge.

She also told jurors the burden of proof rested solely on the shoulders of the prosecutors, and if they believe the crown had satisfied that burden of proof based on the evidence, it was their sworn duty to convict.

However, Justice Bethel said if after examining the evidence in its entirety, jurors are left with a reasonable doubt the prosecution would not have established the burden of proof.

She also advised jurors that it was not for the accused to satisfy them of his innocence, and it was within his right to elect to remain silent as oppose to taking the stand.

About Royston Jones Jr.

Royston Jones Jr. is a senior digital reporter and occasional TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. Since joining Eyewitness News as a digital reporter in 2018, he has done both digital and broadcast reporting, notably providing the electoral analysis for Eyewitness News’ inaugural election night coverage, “Decision Now 2021”.