Oscar Browne withdraws private criminal proceedings without producing a single piece of evidence and must pay cost

By: Nevispages Reporter

Acting Manager of the Nevis Housing and Land Development Corporation, (NHLDC), Oscar Browne, of Prospect, St. John’s Parish, through his attorneys, Daniel, Brantley and Associates, on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at the District ‘C’ Magistrate Court, Charlestown formally withdrew all proceedings against four individuals, whom he had filed private criminal charges against in October, 2012. Browne had contended that the individuals, Peter Joseph James, Ohmel James, Anselm Caines and Barbara Leona Duporte-Hardtman were in breach of sections 50 (1) (c) and 50 (3) of the National Assembly Act.

Oscar Browne ordered to pay cost
Oscar Browne ordered to pay cost

This media house has been informed that this development followed a letter that was sent to Oscar Browne by attorneys for the four persons, Hardtman & Associates, on Tuesday, April 9, 2013 demanding that by the end of that day, that Browne produced the evidence on which he had filed the said complaints.
The letter also sought to ascertain the status of the matter that had remained live in the District ‘C’ Magistrate Court since December 4, 2012, when Magistrate Yasmine Clarke had asked to be recused from the matter.

This media house has learnt that by the end of the day, Tuesday, April 9, 2013, Browne did not produce the evidence requested, but his attorneys faxed a copy of a letter addressed to Magistrate Yasmine Clarke and Ms Janine Harris, to the offices of Hardtman & Associates. The letter from Daniel Brantley and Associates indicated in part, that, ‘we hereby serve notice that the Complainant, (Oscar Browne), withdraws all proceedings against the Defendants.’ The letter also sought for the ‘matters to be called up subject to the Court’s schedule so that a formal indication can be made’.

In Court on Tuesday, after the Magistrate dismissed the charges, Attorney for the four persons, Attorney Ricaldo Caines, asked the court to not only dismiss the charges, but also to grant cost to his clients. Attorney Perry Joseph appearing for Oscar Browne argued that no cost should be granted as the matter was one of public policy. The court disagreed and granted cost to each person in the amount of $500.00 Magistrate Hendrickson determined that once a criminal case is lodged before the Court, the defendants are immediately put at peril. Oscar Browne has 14 days to pay or in default, he may serve seven (7) days in prison.

The individuals, who had proceedings withdrawn against them on Tuesday, have told this media house that they will, with immediate effect, consult their attorneys to determine their way forward with a view to pursue civil actions against all parties involved. They all indicated that they have been put through an ordeal, their characters assassinated, their careers irreparably damaged. They all recall the plethora of negative and degrading comments on social and other media forums against them.

This incident started back in October 15, 2012 at a press briefing by Deputy Leader of the Concerned Citizens Movement, (CCM), Hon. Mark Brantley. At the time he indicated that he was speaking on behalf of CCM Party Leader, Hon. Vance Amory. At that press briefing, Brantley indicated the intention of the CCM  was to file criminal complaints against six persons whom he named. The contents of that press briefing were widely disseminated by Press Secretary of the CCM and were carried live on VON Radio Station. A number of other media houses were also in attendance.

Following that announcement, the issue became a ‘hot button’ issue on social media, radio stations, talk shows, newspapers and ‘talk on the street’. Participants of the various social media sites and talk shows took the opportunity to voice their opinions on the issue.

Hon. Mark Brantley in one of his exchanges on the issue, on social media at a public meeting in Brick Kiln in October 2012, indicated in response to a comment on the issue, ‘…is under the clock we going… Some of them really bold faced with their voter fraud’.

On October 22, 2012, Leader of the CCM, Hon. Vance Amory who had been absent from the press briefing hosted by Mark Brantley on October 15, 2012, indicated that the CCM would continue with criminal legal proceedings against the persons that Brantley had identified the week before. At that time Amory indicated that they (CCM) had decided not to file charges against one individual named by Brantley on October 15, 2012.

In November 2012, after going through objection hearings at the Electoral Office, all individuals were able to prove their residence status and had their names restored to the voters list by the Registration Officer in Nevis. That decision was appealed at the High Court by Oscar Browne. Those appeals were later withdrawn in January 2013 following a ruling by Justice John Benjamin.

When the matter was first brought before the Magistrate Court on November 6, 2012, in a press release issued by a Mervin Hanley, Press Secretary, Concerned Citizen’s Movement it was indicated that ‘the CCM had amassed considerable evidence to prove their cases and several witnesses have come forward who know these individuals personally and know where they in fact reside outside the parish of St. Johns where they are accused of illegally registering’.

Hon. Mark Brantley, writing on Nevis Politics Forum on November 12, 2012 at 12:25 p.m. wrote ‘…CCM will be going to Court with strong evidence and putting its case where it matters most’.

At the end of it all however, Oscar Browne withdrew proceedings and failed to produce a single piece of evidence, or a single witness statement.

Mark Brantley in an article written by L.K Hewlett in the St. Kitts-Nevis Observer of November 16, 2012, had called events surrounding the charges filed as ‘laughable’. On Tuesday in Court however, as Oscar Browne withdrew those charges, not a smile was seen, not a laugh was heard. Oscar Browne himself was a no-show.

One of the individuals involved recalled a comment written on a Nevis Politics Forum by an individual writing under the name Clesia. Clesia had written on November 10, 2012 at 11:28 p.m. that she hoped that the person in question ‘not only got some serious jail time, but that she also got disbarred’. Clesia urged, ‘Mark, don’t go easy on her. Drop de hammer on she tailpart!!!’

Two other individuals involved have indicated that apart from pursuing civil action, they will be getting in touch with the St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association to determine among other things, if there had been any fiduciary breaches by their attorney, Hon. Mark Brantley of Daniel Brantley and Associates. They indicated that Brantley has functioned as their attorney since 2002.

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