Gibson’s defense expected to outline case to trial judge today
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — After four days on the witness stand, Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) Assistant Superintendent Deborah Thompson concluded her evidence in the bribery trial of former Cabinet minister Shane Gibson.
The investigator took statements from the prosecution’s key witness Jonathan Ash and Gibson’s associate at the National Recovery and Reconstruction Unit, Deborah Bastian, who prosecutors allege collected $200,000 in bribes from Ash on Gibson’s behalf in order for the contractor to be paid.
Thompson has conceded to composing three statements on Ash’s behalf based on an initial meeting with the contractor on June 27, 2017.
Ash signed the statement on June 30, the court heard last week.
In September 2017, Thompson added that Ash had been asked to forego a payment.
While the change was made months later, the statement was remained dated June 28, 2017,
Thompson advised the court the date was maintained because she considered the change to be important, but minor.
Before leaving the Supreme Court yesterday, jurors forwarded a question to the officer about the timeline of the amendment to Ash’s statement to add the word forgo of payments, noting there were many dates of discussions and statements during her testimony.
The jurors also asked if the amendment was made during the combined meeting involving Thompson, Bastian, Ash, and attorneys Ms. Bowe and Mr. Rolle.
After a lengthy response, Thompson confirmed the amendment was made on September 25, 2017, during the joint meeting.
Thompson said: “Let me explain what I did. On the 28th of June, 2017, I met with Jonathan Ash at the Central Detective Unit. He gave me his account of what transpired. I took comprehensive notes and on 30th June he signed that statement.
“The next time I saw Jonathan Ash with regard to his statement was on the 25th of September. Prior to holding that meeting, Jonathan Ash and Ms. Bastian provided me statements. They both maintained they attended a meeting with the defendant and at that meeting there were discussions of payments of $250,000.”
She added: “It was September 25, 2017. It was at that meeting we got clarity on the forgo.”
Ash’s company managed at least three dumpsites in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.
The government owed him over $1 million when he allegedly met with Gibson and Bastian in January 2017 about him not receiving payments.
Based on her response to the nine-member jury, Gibson’s lead defense attorney Keith Knight, QC, sought to further probe Thompson about the meeting in question with Gibson and subsequent statements relating to the meeting on September 25, 2017.
Knight asked: “At the joint meeting on September 25 with Ms. Bow, Mr. Rolle — two lawyers — and then you had Ms. Bastian and Mr. Ash and yourself, discussions took place in relation to the money that it was being claimed that was paid from Mr. Ash to Ms. Bastian?”
Thompson conceded that the discussion took place during the joint meeting.
Knight continued: “And based on that discussions, which involved Ms. Bowe in particular a figure was put in the statement.”
Shaking her head, Thompson responded: “No.”
The defense attorney recalled Thompson’s sworn affidavit in which she explained the reason she called the meeting between Bastian, Ash and their attorneys.
Knight said: “On November 14, and the reason you said that: ‘And the reason I invited you all back here was to clear up some ambiguities in your statements in terms of your account of the day y’all met him and as it relates to how much money you (Ash) gave Ms. Bastian because those account differ”.
Thompson said: “Yes, I said that.”
Under cross examination on November 14, Thompson acknowledged she made the statement in her affidavit. On the stand that day, Thompson also conceded that in hindsight it was wrong to take statements from the two prospective witnesses — Bastian and Ash — in each other’s presence to “iron out” differences in their statements.
The defense has suggested this was a deliberate and calculated act to ensure there were no holes in Bastian’s and Ash’s statements alleging the contractors bribed Gibson for payments owed to him.
The defense will outline its case in closed chambers with Justice Carolita Bethel today.
The trial is expected to resume on Wednesday.