Gibson trial key witness fined for operating liquor store

Gibson trial key witness fined for operating liquor store
Jonathon Ash running up the stairs of the Magistrate's Court.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Contractor Jonathon Ash was fined $7,000 in the Magistrate’s Court today for violating the emergency order curfew and operating a liquor store.

Ash, who was a key witness in the bribery trial of former Cabinet minister Shane Gibson, appeared before Magistrate Derrence Rolle-Davis and pled guilty on both charges.

Unlike many of the other people arraigned on violating the emergency order, Ash was not shackled or handcuffed as he dashed into the courtroom, in attempts to dodge the media.

Ash was reportedly arrested after video footage circulated on social media on Friday, showing a group of people standing in front of a liquor store.

The video shows a man exiting the store after a short while with bottles of what appear to be alcoholic beverages and an unmarked white police vehicle parked outside the establishment.

The prosecution alleged that police investigation found that Ash was in fact the man seen in the footage with alcohol in his hands and he carried it to other people and collected funds.

During his interview with police, Ash acknowledged that it was him in the video at the New Manmade Liquor Store.

He reportedly told officers that he went to the establishment after receiving permission from the owner in order to secure the business.

Ash said the funds he received was not regarding the sale of liquor but to give to persons who had done work for him.

He told the court that he owns a trucking company and is considered an essential worker.

However, the prosecution insisted that at no point did he contact 311 to advise that he was leaving his home, nor did he follow protocol to register himself as an essential worker.

His attorney Tamara Taylor Storr asked the court to be lenient with Ash, given that he has no previous convictions, no pending cases, took responsibility for his actions and did not waste the court’s time.

Taylor-Storr said: “Give him a chance to continue to lead a productive life”.

However, Rolle-Davis said the violation of the government’s emergency order – implemented to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) – was blatant.

The magistrate noted that liquor stores are not allowed to open and “any attempt to do so is a blatant disregard of the law and you cannot go unscathed”.

Ash was fined $2,000 or nine months in jail for violating curfew and $5,000 or one year imprisonment for opening a non-essential business.

Taylor-Storr advised that he would be able to pay $2,000 today and the remainder by Friday.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has said liquor stores will remain closed during the mandatory curfew, which remains in effect.

Minnis said recommendations from health officials indicate alcohol could exacerbate social problems.

“I do no support it, alcohol stores are closed and will remain closed,” he said.