Liberia: Cummings Walks Free as MoJ Says It is Compelled to Drop Charges

Alexander Cummings (L) of the ANC was sued by the Liberian government and the All Liberian Party of Benoni Urey, for forgery and criminal conspiracy, regarding the alleged tampering of the CPP framework agreement.  The case was prosecuted by the Solicitor-General  Cllr. Syrenius Cephus (right).

.... "It is, therefore, difficult if not inconceivable for me to conjecture or to arrive at any obvious conclusion, the actual damage to, if any, that UP and ALP  have suffered having already left the CPP, "Cllr. Cephus wrote the Monrovia City Court.

The Ministry of  Justice has moved to drop all criminal charges against  Alexander Cummings and his co-accused five months after claiming to have the necessary evidence for a conviction. 

The ministry decision, which was announced in a stunning reversal is a win for Cummings, the leader of the opposition Alternative National Congress who has always claimed that he is not just innocent, but subject to wrongful "prosecution" — to weaken his presidential bid which, he believes, could make President George Weah a one-time president. 

Cummings, along with his party Chairman, Senator Daniel Naatehn of Gbarpolu County, and the party’s Secretary-General Aloysius Toe, was on trial for alleged forgery and criminal conspiracy — an accusation they denied. They were accused by Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party and the government of allegedly violating section 15.70 of the New Penal Law of Liberia, by having "purposely connived and conspired, to jointly alter the framework documents of the collaborating Political Parties."

But in court documents filed June 4,   Solicitor General Cllr. Sayma Syrennius Cephus disclosed that the continued prosecution of this case would not serve the interests of justice as the government does not prosecute anyone for a crime whose victim — the ALP experienced no injury or damage. 

Cllr. Cephus noted that the country's law contends that injury in any contractual agreement is considered as any harm that a person suffers physically or psychologically as a consequence of the acts or omission of another but in the Cummings case, it is difficult to decipher the raison d'être, why he and others should still be in the dock when the moving parties have out rightly rejected the framework documents.

"It is therefore difficult if not inconceivable for me to conjecture or to arrive at any obvious conclusion, the actual damage to, if any, that a constituent political party or its political leader has suffered having already left the CPP on account of a disputed or fraudulent framework document filed with NEC by  Cummings and his disciples," Cllr. Cephus wrote the Monrovia City Court.

"Liberian law does not prosecute anyone for a crime whose victim is prospective and in which there is no injury or damage done," he said. "Therefore, the extent of injury the Republic of Liberia has suffered for the alteration or forging of the CPP framework document, which is a private contract between private parties, is 'remote' and does not rise to the level of being 'egregious' to warrant further prosecution of the this matter."

"The alleged injury resulting from the commission of the crimes which the Republic is said to have suffered is incredibly ALOOF and seemingly inconsequential in terms of impact but unacceptable in terms of breach or violation of the law and public order.  

"Whatever the case, I am yet to, or I fail to see how a constituent political   party or its political leader has been directly or indirectly injured or  harmed or has been deprived of any legal rights to put forth or become a presidential candidate  in 2023 after leaving the CPP." 

Cllr. Cephus' communication has been accepted by Magistrate Jomah Jallah, who relieved Cummings and his co-defendants from answering to the allegations levied against them. 

In the letter, he noted that the obvious victim, in this case, is the Republic, and the only injury it has suffered is Cummings’ alleged blatant attempt, although never materialized, to create a state of public unrest, chaos, and pandemonium to undermine the Liberia democracy.

He added that the Ministry or his willpower to vigorously prosecute the Cummings’ case and ensure that justice, whether “conviction or acquittal is achieved, has strangely fallen on ice after the Supreme Court struck down a landmark ruling from NEC, which seeks to bar the Unity Party and ALP from contesting next year's election. 

Cllr. Cephus said that when the Supreme Court speaks on any issue of law whether directly or indirectly, as in the case of Cummings, every other major or auxiliary issue appertaining thereto becomes legally shallow or moot and somewhat difficult if not impossible to litigate.

The Court ruling, which Cephus is referring to, notes that NEC  judgment reaffirmed its hearing officer’s decision to bar the UP from fielding a candidate in the Lofa County senatorial by-election and next year's elections on ground that the framers of the Constitution, as well as the elections law, did not compel political parties to submit their governing documents to the NEC simply as a mere formality was unconstitutional, dealing a massive blow to institution. 

The NEC ruling was in response to a request from ANC and the Musa Bility faction of the Liberty Party, asking for Section 8.5 (2) of the CPP  document to be invoked as a means of rejecting and denying “any application from the ALP and UP to field candidates in their names in any election until the expiry of the 2023 elections, including up to six (6) months thereafter, same being the agreed contractual life of the CPP. "

Meanwhile, Cllr. Cephus has defended the government's involvement in the case, adding the Ministry of Justice had to act judiciously to avert what was gradually becoming a state of pandemonium and public unrest.

He added that now the Republic has a full appreciation of the facts, circumstances, and the quantum of evidence, it is constrained to take legal recourse to the law.  Cllr. Cephus noted the ethical and primary duty of a prosecutor is not to convict, but to afford the defendant charged with a crime a fair and impartial trial. 

"Fairness of trial must comprehend justness of the laws under which the defendant answers; and the justness of those laws must be measured against the defendant's rights under the Constitution.

"That being the law extant, it is our considered opinion to terminate this cause of action and herewith enter a Nolle Prosequi in favor of the defendants but without prejudice to the state and with the right to refile where applicable," he said. 

Cllr. Cephus, despite ordering the case dropped, is not doing so without a fight as he still believes that the defendants forged the CPP framework document to the detriment of the other three constituent political parties.

According to him, there is compelling evidence to prove that the CPP framework document was forged — as there is a stark difference in numbering, contents, contexts, and wordings between and amongst the original framework document of May 19, 2020, the amended framework document of April 25, 2020, and the purported framework document that was filed with the NEC by Cummings. 

Citing May 19, document, Cllr. Cephus said there’s no withdrawal clause and the question of “resignation” was unresolved, whereas in the lawyer amended version, specifically section 8.5(ii) contains the word “withdrawal” but Cummings and his team changed and replaced section 8.5(ii) with section 8.5(2) without the express approval of the other parties. 

"These changes are prevalent with several other sections and provisions of the  CPP document to the detriment of other parties.  Let it be noted that the object of the express approval requirement regime of the other constituent political parties, means any changes made or set to be made in the CPP document require validation and ratification by all parties but this was not done when several provisions of the framework document cited inter alia, were unilaterally altered and their prefixes obliterated to suit Cummings’ interest," Cllr. Cephus said.