A Special Administrative Board (SAB) of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) on Monday convicted Second Lt. Melvin Tolbert for desertion of duty and sent him to one hundred days imprisonment at the Edward Binyan Kessely Military Barrack, contrary to Associate Justice Jamesetta Wolokollie’s decision to wait for the outcome of a scheduled conference yesterday.
As part of his sentence, the Board recommended that Lt. Tolbert not leave the barracks for six months and that he forfeit four months’ salary payment.
Justice Wolokollie had earlier mandated Judge Boimah Kontoe of Criminal Court ‘A’ to desist from further hearings into the matter after the AFL filed a complaint against the judge’s decision to release Tolbert to his legal team with the case yet to be decided.
Tolbert’s argument was that the army violated his constitutional rights by keeping him in jail for 22 days without being charged.
Besides asking Judge Kontoe not to handle the matter, Justice Wolokollie ordered the judge to have the solider remanded to the military barracks, pending the outcome of her intervention into the matter yesterday.
While the case was still pending before Justice Wolokollie, the three-member Board, headed by Captain Gabriel Tyler, on Monday convicted Tolbert of desertion in his absence.
However, yesterday’s hearing with Justice Wolokollie did not address the Board’s action, which prompted Tolbert’s lawyers to seek further intervention of the Full Bench of the Supreme Court.
Before the Board’s action, Lt. Tolbert’s lawyers had complained to Judge Kontoe about his arrest and subsequent detention since May at the EBK Barracks, despite several letters the soldier wrote to the army high command about his intension to resign from the army.
Tolbert is one of several officers trained by the government to serve as trainer after the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) drawdown on June 30.
Meanwhile, it was learned that the Board’s action was due to Judge Kontoe’s decision to release Tolbert from the AFL and subsequently turn him over to the Sheriff.
The Sheriff on the other hand allowed Tolbert’s lawyers to sign and take him home, while the judge had not yet ruled on the matter.