(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – Another two defendants in the trial of the Westmoreland-based King Valley gang have accused the police of fabricating evidence against them.
The fresh allegations come even as one accused in the matter on Monday told the court that his statement to the police two years ago that he fired five bullets into the chest of a man, who was also chopped and burnt to death by the gang in March 2017 was given under duress as he was beaten for “three days straight” by police to make that admission.
In the latest claim, 27-year-old accused Criston Grant, alias Ecoy, who gave sworn evidence yesterday, when asked about his comments relayed by a police witness to the court last week, said: “There’s a lot of things Miss (name omitted) said to me which I am not going to say, but to say she cautioned me, is a lie.”
Grant is one of the remaining six alleged members of the King Valley gang charged in an indictment containing 11 counts on suspicion of conspiring to commit murder, rape and robbery with aggravation from as early as 2013. He and the others — Lindell Powell, also called Lazarus; Carlington Godfrey, alias Tommy; Rannaldo McKennis, otherwise known as Ratty; Derval Williams, also called Lukie; and Copeland Sankey, also known as Tupac — have been on trial before the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston since January 14. Three others have since walked free.
The witness, who throughout his time on the stand wore a befuddled and at times annoyed expression, when asked if when he was cautioned he had said, “All now unuh nuh ask mi bout nutten weh mi do, if a money unuh a ask mi bout, mi woulda reason wid unuh; mi nuh seh mi nuh do wrongs, but mi nuh kill people, making money, a my ting dat,” retorted, “Would I really say that to a police officer?”
The self-titled businessman maintained that he did not so much as visit King Valley, did not know of any such gang, was not a member of one and did not know the main witness nor the men in the docks with whom he was accused.
“I don’t know him, a Bull Pen mi come si dem and dem a tell mi seh mi and dem charged. Mi nuh know dem. Mi never been locked up yet,” he said when asked if he knew the other accused.
“Mi never speak to him in my life, I can even swear on the Bible again,” Grant said when asked about conversations the main witness had mentioned having with him.
Asked at one interval about the source of the funds for the farm store he said he operated, the businessman said he was the beneficiary of a life insurance policy of a sibling who passed in 2010. At another juncture he said his source of funding was a credit union loan accessed by himself and his female counterpart, and maintained that he was not involved in scamming as alleged by the star witness.
Questioned about his alias “Ecoy”, Grant, seemingly nonplussed, said, “From mi a likkle, likkle pickney a Bobby everybody call mi. When mi get big, elders tell mi dem used to call mi so, mi nuh know of it.”
Meanwhile, accused Copeland Sankey later, during the hearing, implied that the police had also lied in their records about what he supposedly said when cautioned.
A police witness last week told the court that he had arrested and cautioned Sankey moments before he attempted to board a flight to Nassau, The Bahamas from Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston. He said when cautioned, Sankey had stated, “A long time unuh a look fi mi fi frame mi.”
Sankey, however, told the Court yesterday when “he cautioned me, I did not say anything”.
The self-professed farmer and cabinetmaker told the Court he had never been involved in the gang at the heart of the trial, claiming that he has been employed to two well-known resorts doing “banquet and catering”.
The 44-year-old said he did so for several years until 2014 when he and his brother took over a farm from their aging parents. He further admitted to knowing the Crown’s main witness but said that was due to the fact that he and his brother had employed him to chop cane with them. He said the witness, however, quit without notice and indicated that the job was too hard for him when asked about his delinquency.
He also denied the testimony of the Crown witness in which he (the witness) named him (Sankey) as one of the gang members who had participated in a search to find and kill an individual who had disrespected the former head of the gang, telling the court, “I never yet carry a gun.” He also denied knowing of the existence of the gang or being part of it. Sankey is charged with the single offence of being part of a criminal organisation.
In the meantime, accused Derval Williams, in sworn evidence led by his attorney O’neil Brown yesterday denied any involvement with, or knowledge of the gang. He also denied knowing the main witness, stating, “Normally mi jus’ drive pass, maybe mi glimpse him more while like within a three to four months period.”
He also denied knowing the former gang leaders, now deceased, Tito and Evil Boss.
Williams further distanced himself from the claims of the star witness that he was a sponsor for the gang and supplied ammunition, bulletproof vests, and guns for the gang, telling the Court that he did not own a gun and also was not involved in any contract killings.
According to Williams, before his incarceration he operated a restaurant with his girlfriend.
For the entire time he was under questioning the majority of Williams’s responses consisted of “No sir” or “No ma’am, mi nuh know nutten bout dat” and “I have no knowledge of what you are talking about,” his eyes darting from side to side, pursing and unpursing his lips, clasping and unclasping his hands or running a finger inside the buttoned up collar of his shirt.
Yesterday as well, a character witness for accused Rannaldo McKennis, in testimony which was fiercely contested by the Crown, told the court that he made a living by fishing and had known McKinnis, whom he calls “Fowl dawg”, for seven years.
How much he “knew” him though, was sorely contested by the Crown.
According to the witness, he was driving through the community selling fish when McKinnis hopped onto his van.
“I said to him, ‘help mi sell di fish’ and he start help mi,” the witness told the court.
“He would show me where to get sale, he go out with me like three times for the week,” he said, adding, “I know him to be an easy-going youth. I don’t know him in any gang at all.”
Pressed by the prosecution to say exactly where McKinnis lived, he said, “Mi nuh know him more dan dat, I don’t know which part of Kings Valley him live, I not telling no lie on him. I hear dat him live up there. A go up there but a don’t know what up there name,” the witness, who said he was born and bred in Westmoreland, told the Court.
“I’m 65 years old, as God ah don’t know. I have 13 sons and six daughters, ah not telling no lie fi him,” the witness swore. He, however, went on to say he did not know what else McKinnis did when he was not selling fish with him.
“A don’t know what him do, a you telling mi now… ah don’t know nobody fi Ratty… God know ah not telling no lie,” he told the Court.
In response to the prosecutor’s insistence that, “You don’t really know Ratty well to come here and speak about his character,” the witness acquiesced with, “I know him seven years; I don’t know him well enough to speak about his character.”
The trial is scheduled to continue Thursday morning with witnesses to be called by the defence.