By: St. Clair Sazam Hull
(CHARLESTOWN NEVIS)- The Magistrate Court in Charlestown Nevis, resumed its normal sitting on Tuesday March 5, 2014, before Her Honour, Yasmine Clarke.
The first matter to commence was that of Shariff Williams, Garfield Jeffers and Denny Wilkinson of Cotton Ground Village Nevis. One of the Trio was charged for battery and throwing of missiles, One for the throwing of missiles and the other for battery and malicious damage. Wilkinson gave a guilty plea for the throwing of missiles but pleaded not guilty to battery, Williams pleaded not guilty to the throwing of missiles and Jeffers pleaded not guilty to battery but guilty to malicious damage.
According to Police Prosecutor, Conrad Bertey, on November 28, 2013, Steve Stapleton filed a complaint at the Cotton Ground Police Station that he was brutally beaten by three men. Upon receiving the information the Police thoroughly investigated the matter and all three accused were apprehended.
The first person to give evidence in the matter was the complainant Steve Stapleton. He told the Court he was hanging out at local shop in Cotton Ground, when he was attacked by Denny Wilkinson. Stapleton claimed that Wilkinson came from the northern side of the grocery store and started inflicting lashes to his face, “He flew on me with some box all in my face Stapleton noted”. The complainant also stated that Shariff Williams pelted a stone at him, that caught him in his back and Garfield Jeffers seized the opportunity to beat him with a stick after realizing he was in a vulnerable situation.
Mr. Stapleton explained to the court, that during the altercation he had a little knife that he usually keeps in his possession and he had no other alternative but to use it. “It was the only thing I had to defend me and I dig Garfield with the knife”. He indicated that someone was inside the shop whilst the conundrum was going on and the person came to his rescue. Mr. Stapleton said he had in a few drinks at the time but he was by no means intoxicated.
During cross-examination, by the Attorney for the defendants Mr. Recaldo Caines, Stapleton told the court he was not expecting the defendants to do anything to him. “I had no confrontation with nobody so I wasn’t expecting any of this”. Caines asked the complainant how he had absolute certainty that Williams struck him with a stone when he said he had in a few drinks. Mr. Stapleton replied that he was not drunk even though he had a little bit of alcohol earlier in the day. Stapleton continued, “I saw Shariif when he threw the stone at me, I am certain sure of that”.
Officer Dave Bedford, was also called to the witness stand. Mr. Bedford indicated that on November 28, 2014, he was on duty at the Cotton Ground Police Station. He noted that around 8:15 pm. Stapleton entered the building and expressed dissatisfaction about an incident that had transpired. He also stated that Stapleton’s face was in a deplorable state with bumps and bruises. “I observed the forehead of Stapleton appeared to be swollen and bruised and his face was bleeding”. Bedford indicated that after he took the report from Stapleton he then transported him to the Alexandra Hospital to receive medical treatment.
The Officer said upon arrival at the hospital, he saw one of the defendants Garfield Jeffers at the outpatient unit nursing a wound. He said he told Jeffers, that he is making an investigation to a report made by Steve Stapleton for beating him with a stick and also in his face. I cautioned him and he responded by saying, “I don’t remember anything, I don’t know what happen”. He also claimed whilst at the hospital, he issued a medical form to Jeffers and on December 14, 2013, Jeffers was formally arrested and charged.
Bedford claimed that Jeffers showed great reluctance to enter the cell and behaved in a disruptive and violent manner. He stated, “Jeffers started kicking and twisting but after about three (3) minutes we finally got him into the cell”. Bedford noted that Jeffers said he got instructions from the doctor not to go in any cell.
Bedford also told the court whilst in custody; Jeffers continuously kicked and shook the door of the cell. “He continue kicking and shaking the door of the cell and I warned him if he did not stop he will be charged for malicious damage”. He said his words seemingly fell on deaf ears as Jeffers continued to kick and beat the door breaking it in the process. Mr. Bedford said the damages amounted to four hundred and fifty dollars.
He said he continued his investigation and on December 15, 2013, he arrested and charged Denny Wilkinson. I also cautioned him and he replied and said, “I don’t know what I get myself into and the thing is all of us from Cotton Ground when I see him I have to apologize”. The Officer said later that same day Shariff Williams was also arrested and charged.
In his defense, Williams told the court that Stapleton was lying on him. He said Steve had entered the shop and used threatening language to a gentleman name Nathaniel Matthew. He also stated that Stapleton pulled out a knife and told Matthew not to come back to Cotton Ground. Williams indicated, that Matthew seemed as though he was undisturbed by Stapleton’s actions because all he said to Stapleton was, “Steve I know you drunk and you ain mean it”.
Williams said after he recognized the situation was getting tense; he departed the shop and went home. When Prosecutor Bertey questioned Williams about his affiliation with Jeffers he indicated that he doesn’t consider Jeffers to be his friend but they are not enemies either. Williams stated that he and Jeffers had a dispute in the past and if Jeffers gets into an altercation with anybody he has no reason to intervene.
Garfield Jeffers also gave a testimony before the court. Jeffers said he arrived by the shop and heard Stapleton saying he has a dislike for Cotton Ground residents. He claimed that Stapleton was under the influence of alcohol and he never beat him in his face with the stick. “I did have a stick in my hand but I didn’t beat him with it”. Jeffers said he pushed Stapleton when he made an attempt to come between a tiny space where him and his cousin were standing. Prosecutor Berty told Jeffers he launched an attack on Stapleton because of what was said, Jeffers vehemently denied the allegation.
The last of the three defendants, Denny Wilkinson said he didn’t hit Stapleton in his face and the missile Steve is talking about accidentally got out of his hand. He noted that a lady friend summoned him to the window and when he looked outside he saw Jeffers limping. He said he went to his rescue and Jeffers told him “somebody dig him”. Wilkinson indicated that while he was in the road trying to help Jeffers into a car to take him to the hospital, two stones came in close proximity in quick succession. He noted that he was unsure of where the stones directly came from and only when he went back towards the shop he saw Stapleton throwing a tantrum.
He said he tried desperately to get Stapleton under control by grapping his right fist, but Stapleton was behaving in such a rage, it prompted him to exit the premises of the shop. He said while he made his departure, the stone got out of his hand and if it did caught Stapleton it wasn’t a purposeful act. Wilkinson claimed that Stapleton is a man he has admiration and respect for and he won’t ever do such a thing to him.
Attorney Caines told the court, that no witnesses who were at the scene came forth to give evidence for either side so therefore it was down to Her Honour to use her discretion and decide which side sounds believable. “We have heard in totality from all parties and I have to leave it to the court to decide”.
Prosecutor Conrad Berty, was of the view that the Claimant’s evidence had outweighed that of the defendants and the Prosecution had proved its case. He indicated that it was a ploy designed by the defendants to gang Stapleton and they carried out what was planned. Therefore they should be penalized for what they did.
In making her judgment, Her Honour stated that although there was no evidence of what actually happened she found it quite strange that none of the defendants accepted responsibility for Stapleton’s bruises. Her Honour continued, “The police officer said when Stapleton came to the police station he had bruises on his forehead so how did he get those bruises if no one laid their hands on him”? She also told Jeffers he should consider himself extremely fortunate not to have lost his life that night. “You see how you could have died over something silly that wasn’t worth the while”? You are very lucky”!
Her Honour found all three defendants guilty as charged. Shariff Williams was fined five hundred dollars to be paid in two months or three months imprisonment. Denny Wilkinson was fined one thousand dollars to be paid in six months or serve six months in prison and Garfield Jeffers was fined one thousand dollars to be paid in six months or six months imprisonment. Jeffers was also fined five hundred dollars to be paid in two months for damages he inflicted to the door at the Cotton Ground Police Station. He would serve three months in prison if he refuses to pay.