By:St. Clair ‘Sazam’ Hull
(CHARLESTOWN NEVIS)-The Magistrate Court in Charlestown, District C Nevis, resumed its usual sitting on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 before Her Honor, Yasmine Clarke.
The matter before the Court was that of Ellison Smithen, a resident of Stoney Grove. He was charged for assaulting Irma Francis of Bath Village. Smithen pleaded not guilty to the charge.
According to Police Prosecutor, Joel Caines, on Saturday July 22, 2017, Francis was working as a security guard at the Nevis Cultural Village. He pointed out, that Smithen had left the venue and upon his return he was asked by Francis to present a pass or a ticket in order to get back inside the Cultural Village. The Prosecutor noted that Smithen had no pass or ticket and when he was told he was not allowed into the venue, he proceeded to choke the victim. He told the Court that Francis made a report to the Charlestown Police Station in regards to the incident.
The Prosecution’s first witness was the victim Irma Francis. She indicated that on the night in question she was working security at the Cultural Village. Francis told the Court that whilst she was standing at the gate, the defendant approached and asked to gain entry. She said that she told the defendant that ‘Abonaty’ had told her not to let anyone in without a pass or a ticket. Smithen told her he passed through Friday night and if she didn’t remember his face. She said that she replied and told him that I didn’t remember his face so he could wait for Bernadette or Rosie to let him in.
Francis said that the defendant got angry and started making noise. She noted that he started saying, “I don’t know what kind of security are you be”. The witness said that she asked Smithen to excuse her because persons were piling up by the gate with tickets and when she turned her back to open the gate, Smithen pushed her. She told the Court that she pushed him back and she turned around and they had a little verbal argument. Francis said that the defendant lounged forward and started choking her with both hands and she pushed back in the process. She indicated that someone said, “Boy wa stupidness you a do” and that was when the defendant released her.
During cross-examination, defense lawyer for the defendant, Ms. Annmarieta Staines, asked the witness if she said anything to the defendant when he was leaving and she replied and said, “No I didn’t”. She asked Francis if she saw Smithen when he entered the gate earlier and Francis told the Court, that she did not see him. The lawyer also asked the witness if she would agree that any reasonable person would have checked to see if the defendant had a pass. Francis replied and said that the defendant knew that security would have been at the gate because he would have gotten specific instructions from the committee to show his pass if he wanted to re-enter.
When questioned about if it was true to say that nobody told him anything about being a vendor, Francis noted that she was unaware that the defendant was a vendor. She noted that she did not know Smithen before the night of the incident. The lawyer told the witness, that the defendant said that he left his pass by his booth and if she checked to see if he did have a booth. Francis said that she could not leave because she was the only one at the gate. Staines told Francis that she was lying about the altercation because if it was a slow night, that meant she could have checked to see if the defendant had left his pass inside his booth. Staines told the victim that the defendant only pushed her because he was pushed first.
The second person to testify on behalf of the Prosecution was Patrick Prentice. He told the Court, that he knew Ellison for a couple of years and he knew Irma Francis as well. He said he was on the opposite side of the road when the incident occurred. He indicated that Francis told Smithen that he could not come in without a pass otherwise other persons were going to do the same. Prentice said shortly after he heard the gate slammed and Smithen was holding Francis in her throat. He said that he told the defendant that he was doing ‘stupidness’ and he should let go of Francis.
During cross-examination, Staines asked Prentice if Mr. Smithen was there when he was talking to Francis. Prentice said that Smithen was there and he was wearing a long pants and a T shirt. Staines said that she was putting it to Prentice that he was lying because Smithen was wearing a short pants.
The Prosecution third and final witness was Officer Samatha Claxton. She told the Court that while she was on duty a report was made by a lady name Irma Francis. Claxton said that Francis reported that she was beaten by a man name Ellison. The Officer indicated, that she carried out an investigation and when she saw the defendant, she cautioned him and told him about the report that was made against him. She noted that the defendant responded and said, “I have nothing to say”.
The defendant Ellison Smithen also testified under oath. He said that he operated a booth at the Cultural Village and when he first arrived at the venue he had his venue pass with him. He said he left his booth to go home for some change but accidentally left his pass inside the booth. The defendant noted that the complainant saw him when he left the village on the same night. He told the Court that no one told him that he needed a pass or a ticket to re-enter the venue. He said that he pleaded to get inside and Francis told him, “I won’t let you in, get your pass”.
Smithen indicated that Francis was allowing someone else to go in and he tried to squeeze his way through. He stated that Francis pushed him back in his chest and he did the same thing in return. Smithen further stated, that Francis told him that she was going to deal with him and if not here, somewhere else. The defendant noted that he told the police that he was taking it as a threat because ‘people are shooting people’.
The defendant was cross-examined by the Prosecutor. Caines asked the defendant if a vendor’s pass is required to get inside of the Cultural Village and he said, “Yes”. Caines told the defendant, that he was upset because he wasn’t allowed to go inside and he pushed the complainant and grabbed her in her throat. Smithen said he did not grab Francis in her throat but he pushed her in self defense.
In addressing Her Honor, Magistrate Yasmine Clarke, Prosecutor Caines noted that the matter was quite simple. He indicated that although Francis had a little hiccup here and there, her evidence was very consistent. Caines stated that Francis’ job was to ensure that whosoever entered the venue had a pass or a ticket. The Prosecutor pointed out, that the evidence of both witnesses were the same in regards to the fact that the defendant held Francis in her throat. He said that Smithen knew he was wrong and that is the reason why he went and apologized to her.
Defense lawyer Staines also addressed Her Honor. She indicated that if something went wrong, Francis’ job was to call the police officer and not to lay her hands on people. Staines said that it was a situation where the victim laid her hands on the defendant and he also could have made a complaint to the police but he do not ‘like confusion’. She further stated, that the reason why Smithen apologized to Francis was because he knew he was wrong in trying to force his way through the gate. Staines said that Francis could have used her discretion to find out if he was a booth vendor.
After listening to the matter in its entirety, Her Honor found the defendant guilty as charged. Staines asked the Court not to record a criminal conviction against the defendant, noting that he was a single father. She also noted that in the event that he wished to apply for a police record to access a visa, this event may hamper his chances of getting through.
Her Honor did not record a criminal conviction against Smithen. She said that she took into consideration that this was the first time he appeared before the Court and he does not get into trouble. However, he was fined eight hundred dollars ($800.00) to be paid in one week. If he fails to pay within a week, a criminal record will be recorded against him.