A courtroom drama erupted at the Criminal Court ‘C’ on Friday, January 10, shortly after Inspector General of the Liberia National Police (LNP), Patrick Sudue failed to show-up there to produce seven (7) vehicles in his possession, as was mandated of him by the the Supreme Court.
The vehicles have been a subject of a criminal trial, since 2016, wherein the government accused two Liberians, including one Armstrong Tony Campbell, of transporting the seven alleged stolen vehicles from the United Stated of America to Liberia. According to the government, Campbell alleged stole the vehicles from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, where he lived for over 10 years, and shipped them to one Sheak K. Brown, the other accused, in Liberia.
It was those vehicles that the Supreme Court, on December 23, 2019, ordered the Criminal Court ‘C’ to compel IG Sudue to have Campbell take immediate possession and custody of, after the Ministry of Justice and Campbell’s legal team filed a stipulation of voluntary discontinuance before the Supreme Court withdrawing a writ of Mandamus, the government had initially filed there in resistance of a not-guilty verdict entered by the jury in favor of Campbell and Brown.
Initially, the government had charged Campbell and Brown with multiple crimes that include theft of property, economic sabotage, smuggling, criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation, of which the jury brought a verdict of not-guilty in favor of the accused, Campbell and Brown.
Friday’s drama erupted after Judge Nancy Finda Sammy held IG Sudue in contempt of court due to the IG’s failure to appear before her when the mandate of the Supreme Court was read in open court even without any legal representation.
The mandate was that Sudue be made to turn over the keys of the seven vehicles that had been parked at the Headquarters of the Liberia National Police (LNP) since 2017 which up to and including the publication of the story there has been conflicting accounts about the whereabouts of the vehicles’ keys.
The conflicting accounts was supported on Friday, when a man introducing himself as a lawyer of the IG appeared before the court, pleading with Judge Sammy to relax its contempt against Sudue, because the keys to the vehicles were allegedly in the possession of the US Embassy near Monrovia.
The accusation, the embassy yet to respond, neither has the court ever contacted the embassy for its respond.
The accusation annoyed one of Campbell’s lawyers, Cllr. Amara Sheriff, who expressed disbelief about the keys to the vehicles being in the possession of the US Embassy.
“He is not saying the truth,” Cllr. Sheriff argued during a short hearing, “We presented the keys to the police and they gave us receipt indicating that the keys together with the vehicles were in their possession.” He added, “How would they now say the keys are with the US Embassy, which I am finding it difficult to accept and so, they should be made to produce the keys and the vehicles immediately as a respect the Supreme Court’s mandate.”
Afterward, Judge Sammy changed her mind and issue a one-week ultimatum for IG Sudue to produce the keys and the vehicles before her court.
In their stipulation of voluntary discontinuance, the parties, government lawyers and Campbell’s legal team agreed to terminate these mandamus proceedings and have the seven vehicles returned to Campbell consistent and in keeping with the verdict of the trial jury and the final judgment of the trial court adjudging the defendants not guilty of stealing or theft of the seven vehicles.
They also said the trial judge did not err when he entered final judgment discharging Campbell and Brown from further answering the charges of theft of property, smuggling and criminal conspiracy consistent and in keeping with the constitutional provision of double jeopardy.
It continues, “The parties have agreed, and are accordingly filing this joint stipulation of voluntary discontinuance to terminate the mandamus proceedings.”
The case began when the U.S. Embassy near Monrovia in October 2016, notified local investigative agencies, including the Liberia National Police (LNP), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), that several vehicles had been stolen from the US and were being shipped to Liberia.
The allegation was denied by Campbell and his co-defendant, Sheak K. Brown.
The prosecutions’ indictment alleged that from July to October 2016, co-defendant Campbell, Sheriff Lasudo, together with others yet to be identified, while in the United States, conspired with co-defendant Brown to knowingly steal, take, convert, ship, receive and retain in Liberia seven stolen vehicles belonging to persons in the USA without the authorization of the owners.
The indictment revealed that the vehicles were shipped to Liberia in the name of a non-existent, fictitious company named “Shea K. Brown Building Material, Incorporated,” for which the co-defendant presented himself as the purported general manager.