Bassa Lawmaker Faces US$18,877 Damages Lawsuit

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Representative Gabriel B. Smith of Grand Bassa County District# 3 has been charged by the Buchanan City Court

for his alleged involvement in vandalizing a local radio station, Gbehzohn FM 106.3, The damage to the radio station is estimated at US$18,877, according to court  documents.

Rep. Smith, along with Solomon A. Kollie, Reuben T. Bannie and Cyrus T. Warkor, were charged with theft of property, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, breach of peace and criminal conspiracy.

Rep. Smith is a candidate for Grand Bassa County, in the December 20 Special Senatorial Election.

Surprisingly, when the defendants last Monday, appeared before Senior Associate Magistrate Richard
Brown to answer the charges, it was discovered that Rep. Smith was nowhere to be found in the court room.

His absence from the court prompted the state lawyer to ask for the issuance of a writ of arrest against the Lawmaker before they could proceed with the case.

They further argued that Rep. Smith should be arrested because he committed the crime of breach of peace, which under Article 42 of the 1986 Constitution gives reason to arrest a sitting lawmaker.

“His absence will prejudice the matter and if the court allows it to be so, it would bring the justice system under public ridicule,” the state lawyer further argued.

In his opposing argument, the lawyer representing the defendants, Rep. Smith included, rejected the state’s request and subsequently asked the court to proceed with the matter in the absence of Rep. Smith.

They based their legal argument on Article 42 of the 1986 Liberian Constitution, which, according to them, forbids the arrest of lawmakers.

“He should enjoy his immunity and cannot be arrested except for felonious crimes,” the lawyer further defended.

The defense said the request was merely intended to delay the hearing and to confuse justice.

In his ruling, Magistrate Brown granted prosecution’s request and subsequently instructed the court’s clerk, Stephen Quehgar, to serve a precept for the arrest of Mr. Smith.

Magistrate Brown said his decision was in keeping with
the law.

“Mr. Smith can choose to be escorted to the court by any well-known personality on Thursday, 16 December 2014, at 12 noon,” Magistrate Brown added.

He later informed the other defendants, Bannie, Kollie and Warkor to file a valid criminal bond that would allow them to be released while awaiting their trial.

While in the process of filing their bond, the defendants allegedly escaped from the court without securing the bond with the assistance of a man believed to be Rep. Smith’s body guard, according to Magistrate Brown.

Magistrate Brown further informed journalists that he had “instructed state security to arrest and bring the living bodies of the defendants, including
Lawmaker Smith and send them to the court.”

He added that the Smith group allegedly assaulted the County Sheriff Major David Menne who was dressed in his uniform, and in the process Sheriff lost US$10.00.

Rep. Smith and his co-defendants were said to have damaged the radio station and allegedly took away three lap tops (Dell) valued at US$2,700, one 4-G cellcom, a cell phone valued US$59.00 and cash in the amount of US$2,880.

Furthermore, according to court documents, the defendants also damaged tangible properties including 300 Watt Transmitter valued at over US$6000, two Desktops valued at US $1,600 and 4 microphones valued US at US$400.

Other items damaged in the process, were 4JVC phones valued US $460, two roles cable wires audio costing US $1,200 and one mixer board valued at US $1,800.   The damaged or confiscated goods from the radio station totaled US$18,877.

The defendants were first apprehended by the police on December 12, 2014, and were acquainted with their constitutional and Maranda rights and subsequently charged with the multiple crimes.

During the police preliminary interrogation, which lasted about six hours that day, the defendant admitted entering the premises of the radio station, but the management denied them air time.

They also denied causing any damage or taking away money as claimed.

Despite their denial, police said they established that on December 12, 2014, at about 9 a.m. Mr. Smith and his men
actually committed the acts for which they were being charged.

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