Judge Morgan says as she purges Cllr. Gongloe et al of contempt charges
A Court hearing intended to afford Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe and two other lawyers the opportunity to defend themselves against a contempt charge slapped on them by Judge Eva Mae Mappy Morgan, yesterday took a strange but happy twist, with the lawyers being purged of the contempt charge levied against them by Judge Morgan of the Commercial Court.
Gongloe’s law firm was hired by one Amos Brosius, owner of Ducor Petroleum Incorporated (DPI), to represent his legal interest in a case brought by the Monrovia Oil Trading Company (MOTC) against Brosius, in which the company sought the Commercial Court’s approval to compel Ducor Petroleum to make proper accounting of US$56 million worth of petroleum products allegedly supplied to it.
MOTC is owned by Italian businessman Charles Carron and James Sirleaf, one of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s sons.
While awaiting the determination of the matter, Brosius, according to Judge Morgan, used several media outlets, including the Costa Talk Show on Roots FM, a local radio station, to falsely accuse her of withdrawing, without the consent of the parties, an amount of US$3.4 million from the account of the Ducor Petroleum at the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), which was being held in escrow pending final determination of the matter.
Judge Morgan has since denied the allegation, challenging Brosius to provide any documentary evidence in support of his claim against her.
Prior to yesterday’s hearing, the parties (MOTC and DPI) as well as their respective lawyers, entered into and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in which they agreed that none of the parties would ever discuss the matter outside of the court pending its outcome as well as its merit and demerit.
Unfortunately, Brosius, according to Morgan, appeared on the Costa Show where he allegedly incited the public against her by claiming that she was a “rogue and does not desire to live.”
“He had been on that incitement spree where they have been successful in tarnishing my hard-earned reputation for the last 500 days without the lawyers reacting to it,” Judge Morgan said yesterday in open court.
At one point, Judge Morgan claimed that people believed to have been acting on the approval of Brosius, went to her Providence Baptist Church in search of her.
“Sometime back, Costa used his show to call on the public to shoot me over my role with the disappearance of the US$3.4M. Even Costa himself said he was going to shoot me wherever he met me,” Judge Morgan claimed.
“For fear of my life, the government managed to assign officers of the Police Support Unit to protect me,” the Commercial Court judge disclosed.
It was against this backdrop that the court, headed by a three-judge panel, unanimously held Gongloe and his colleagues, that include Cllr. Philip Gongloe, a brother to Tiawan, and Cllr. Momolu Kandakai in contempt and subsequently threatened to jail them for 20 days.
During the hearing, Tiawan Gongloe, who spoke on behalf of the other two lawyers, implored the court to purge (remove) the contempt charge and allowed them to go home and practice their profession freely.
Gongloe maintained that they were not behind the behavior of Brosius to tarnish the image of the court and Judge Morgan.
Imploring the Court to purge them of the contempt charge, Cllr. Gongloe prayed the court to exclude imprisonment of lawyers as part of its punishment.
“The Court can use other punishment like fine, suspension and disbarment, and not to just concentrate on sending lawyers to jail,” Gongloe stressed.
He meanwhile said at no time in the over 30 years of his law practice has he been involved with any act that would tend to undermine and bring the reputation of the court to public disrepute.
“I will not disrespect this court and any other courts in the country and will not do it at any time,” Gongloe noted.
Following Gongloe’s submission, Judge Morgan, in her ruling, observed the presence in Court of a number of senior lawyers of the Supreme Court Bar who had pleaded with the Court to “temper justice with mercy” in favor of defendants Gongloe and company. In acquiescing to their plea, Judge Morgan however warned that the Court will no longer tolerate further acts of such nature by Gongloe’s clients.
Moments following Judge Morgan’s announcement declaring the lawyers purged of the contempt charge, a crowd of people, who had trooped into the Court to observe the proceedings, broke into chants and victory songs. At their insistence, they marched with Gongloe from the courtyard of the Temple of Justice on Capitol Hill through the streets to the Gongloe law offices on Ashmun Street in downtown Monrovia, singing victory songs and chanting battle cries. For a moment, according to a longtime activist, the entire episode seemed rather surreal (strange, unusual), with echoes of the march to prison in 1975 of the Revelation editors on whom the Supreme Court had levied excessive fines and sent to jail pending payment of the amends.