Attorney Chesley Oneal Hamilton from St Kitts and Nevis who had never before practised in the Virgin Islands, and had to be flown in to assist E. Leroy Jones, Attorney for Venezuelan nationals Wilferedo Lopez Vargas and Hober Morillo Ybarbia and Government Accountant Cryton Browne in the $30.9 million cocaine trial, was not a happy camper when he learnt that the trial would not go on as planned.
One of the lawyers at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) told the court there were missing statements and photos to complete the criminal file for the accused men.
The lawyer also said they were still waiting on word from the US Department of Justice to state when two officers who were part of the high-speed chase at sea would be able to testify in the matter.
Hearing this, the veteran lawyer rose and said, “Common courtesy and decency should have been extended” to the defence lawyers, particularly since he was out of the jurisdiction and had to be flown in to deal with the matter.
“We are ready to proceed,” he remarked.
Magistrate Ayanna O. Baptiste DaBreo said she agreed with Hamilton, that the ODPP should have communicated the hurdles especially in cases where lawyers do not reside in the VI and would have to be flown into the Territory.
Also adding her voice on the matter, Attorney for boat captain Nickel Simon – Reynela Rawlins said: “I am a bit concerned, we wish for the matter to proceed.”
She said they were not in favour of the adjournment as the ODPP could commence the trial with the local witnesses.
Magistrate Dabreo then informed the court, she would yield to the ODPP to adjourn the matter to March 11, 2020, for report, because she would be unable to have trials after June and if the case is still ongoing, the matter would have to recommence before another magistrate.
The men were caught on Virgin Gorda following a high-speed chase on October 27, 2019.
Allegations according to the ODPP, indicates, that on October 27, the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) received a tip of a two boats conducting suspicious activity about 20 miles north of St Croix, US Virgin Islands (USVI).
The RVIPF and local officers from Her Majesty’s Customs were deployed to Virgin Gorda while the US Coast Guard chased the men.
Allegations are that during the chase, several packages were seen being dumped into the sea from the vessel the men were on.
After the men were cornered in Virgin Gorda and captured, the packages were retrieved using a global positioning system (GPS).
A total of 11 bales containing 276 blocks of cocaine weighing 309 kilograms were recovered from the sea.
During a search of Browne’s residence, police found a money counting machine, a vacuum sealer and other items.