“Considering the testimony presented by the witness, and the grave nature of the issue, I now move… that the witness remains under oath and the issue under discussion be referred to the Committee on Judiciary for full investigation and report to plenary in two weeks,” Grand Cape Mount County Senator Varney Watson said proffering a motion that was unanimously approved.
In furtherance of that motion, President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, Albert T. Chie reemphasized that Cllr. Saymah Syrenius Cephus “remains under oath and a full scale investigation be conducted by the Senate Committee on Judiciary to report to plenary not later than two weeks; because the Senate considers this issue very serious.”
The motion came yesterday after Senators grilled Cllr. Cephus, the Solicitor General of Republic of Liberia, for over three hours on issues surrounding the dropping of charges against former Liberia Airport Authority Managing Director, Ellen Corkrum.
The Solicitor General on last week Tuesday appeared before the Senate after the Justice Minister, Cllr. Frank Musah Dean had told the Senate during a hearing that the withdrawal of charges against Madam Corkrum, has claimed the attention of his Ministry.
Cllr. Dean, who is the Attorney General of Liberia, asserted that the former LAA Managing Director, Madam Corkrum, was duly indicted, and a writ of arrest was issued for her, but was out of the country and never submitted herself to the jurisdiction of the court.
Minister Dean, however, lamented that upon the arrival of Madam Corkrum back into the country recently, “it was discovered that the matter was withdrawn (nolle prosequi) and this has claimed the attention of the Ministry of Justice, and the matter is being pursued.”
Attorney General Dean explained that when a matter is withdrawn because of insufficient evidence, “normally it is done with or without prejudice, meaning the state (government) can come back. I am told that this matter was withdrawn without prejudice, and was done from the office of the Solicitor General of the current administration.”
Appearing for the second time on Thursday, February 20, Cllr. Cephus told the Senators that, “in keeping with the submission I made which was distributed to you, I confirm and reaffirm that the Honorable Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Professor Frank Musah Dean, was briefed prior to entering into nolle prosequi in favor of Madam Ellen Corkrum by the Ministry of Justice; thereafter, he was briefed and he personally advised me, Solicitor General and Chief Prosecutor of the Republic, to go on the radio to explain to the Liberian people what is meant by a state entering a nolle prosequi without prejudice to the state.”
Beyond that, Cllr. Cephus informed the Senate plenary that Minister Dean was the one who personally hired for and on behalf of Madam Ellen Corkrum, Cllr. Arthur Johnson, “and Cllr Johnson on October 2, 2019, filed a motion to dismiss for failure to proceed.”
The Solicitor General (SG) then came under a sustained barrage of questions, especially from Senators Stephen Zargo, Abraham Darius Dillon, Oscar Cooper and J. Gbleh-Bo Brown, who took advantage of some acquired legal knowledge and the Constitution.
Most Senators wanted to know whether SG Cephus and his boss, Minister Dean, were working collaboratively in line with the Statute that created the Ministry of Justice.
For instance, Senator Cooper was specific in asking the SG whether there was a written memo from the Minister requesting or authorizing the dropping of charges against Madam Corkrum, and who specifically received that authorization.
In response, Cllr. Cephus informed the hearing that the decision to enter into nolle prosequi was done by the Ministry of Justice, and is not the responsibility of one prosecutor.
Referring to the amount for which the former LAA boss was charged, Cllr Cephus expressed dismay that the past administration could spend US$200,000 to follow a case that involves US$269,000, describing the decision as a “waste of needed resources.”
Senator Cooper however, took serious exception to the Solicitor General’s assessment, saying he should be more concerned about the criminal nature of the case, and not the amount involved, especially when the accused escaped from justice.