Defense witness testifies allegations against Gibson is “not the man I know”
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Supreme Court Justice Carolita Bethel yesterday rejected a no case submission from attorneys’ representing former Cabinet minister Shane Gibson against bribery and extortion charges.
Bethel ruled Gibson must answer to his charges.
After reading Gibson’s 15 charges in open court, Justice Bethel gave him the option to say nothing or take the stand and give a sworn statement.
She warned he would be subject to cross examination by the prosecution.
Gibson told the judge he would exercise his right to remain silent.
The former labour minister, 58, is on trial for allegedly receiving $280,000 in bribes from businessman Jonathan Ash between January 2017 and March 2017 to expedite payments owed to him by the government.
Ash completed work on five dumpsites and in Centreville in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.
Gibson has denied the allegations.
Ash has testified that he paid Deborah Bastian, a government official, $200,000 on Gibson’s behalf.
He further claimed to have paid Gibson $80,000 in cash during secret meetings, beginning in February 2017.
Ash has been granted immunity from prosecution.
The defense yesterday opened its case with a character witness by former public service worker Leanza Elizabeth Gardiner-Keju.
Keju, now retired, has held multiple senior positions in the public service over her near 30-year tenure and testified that she has worked with many former Cabinet ministers including Ronald Knowles, Ethlyn Issacs, Charles Carter, Neko Grant, the late Dr. Bernard Nottage, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and now Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis.
She told the court that she worked with Gibson as a permanent secretary in the Ministry of Public Service between 2012 and 2014.
However, Keju said she had known Gibson well before her two-year stint at his ministry.
The retired teacher testified that she met Gibson more than 30 years ago when he was recruited to be a part of the Church of God of Prophecy’s Englerston choir – the church where Gibson also met his wife, she said.
She described Gibson as a “personable, humane, well-loved and charitable” person and told the court that her view of the former minister “certainly did not” change from the day she met him.
When asked by Gibson’s attorney Owen Wells about his conduct when she worked with him, Keju said the defendant had integrity, high standards and worked above the fold.
Wells also asked the witness whether Gibson ever asked her to do anything illegal or ethical.
She told the court, “absolutely not”.
Keju said there was no change from when she worked with Gibson in church and as a minister.
The jury heard Keju testify that while serving as public service minister, Gibson was “bold and ethical”, implementing key changes such as the rate reduction on rent for government housing to $25 per square foot and the rotation of public service workers throughout the sector.
She testified that Gibson believed in the rights of people and did not want them to be disenfranchised.
Asked by Wells about her thoughts when she heard the allegations levied against her former superior and fellow church member, Keju said, “That’s not the man I know”.
When cross examined by lead prosecutor James Guthrie, QC, the court heard Keju – who had left the Ministry of Public Service “a number of years” before Hurricane Matthew – admitted she was not involved in the recovery or reconstruction efforts and does not know the details of the allegations against Gibson.
The prosecution closed its case against Gibson on November 19.
The crown and the defense are expected to address the jury today.