Franz Paul, the Cadet Officer accused of shooting 15-year-old Alex Griffith in the mouth, is now a prisoner on remand after he was formally charged with the crime and refused bail.
Paul, who was said to have been personally investigating the robbery of his sister at the time he picked up Griffith for questioning, was charged yesterday with discharging a loaded firearm at the teen, with intent to maim, disfigure or cause bodily harm, to which he pleaded not guilty when he appeared before Magistrate Fabayo Azore at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.
He also pleaded not guilty to charges of inflicting grievous bodily harm, unlawful assault and attempting to pervert the course of justice. On the last count, he was jointly charged with another lawman, Corporal Baichan Singh.
Although his lawyers, in seeking bail, argued that the episode had been blown out of proportion, the magistrate only granted bail on the charges of attempting to pervert the law and assault and denied bail on the other charges. Paul was accused of shooting the teen during a game of Russian roulette, after he and other lawmen took the minor from his home for questioning. The charges were laid just over a month since the shooting, which fuelled more criticism of the police force in the midst of other allegations of police brutality.
Prosecutor Stephen Telford yesterday told the court that on April 30, Paul’s sister was robbed. Subsequently, acting on information received, Paul located Griffith and took him into custody for questioning. During this process, the prosecutor said Paul placed a loaded firearm in Griffith’s mouth and shot him. As a result, Griffith was injured and was later admitted as a patient at the Georgetown Public Hospital, while the shooting was reported to the police and the investigation commenced.
According to Telford, consequently, Paul was identified and placed under close arrest. During the investigation, Corporal Singh, in response to a call made by Paul, visited him at the Mahaica Police Station and presented him with the firearm and ammunition book to allow him to alter the records. He said Paul refused to do so even though Singh was just following his request.
Prosecutor Telford objected to bail on a number of grounds, all of which were challenged by the three attorneys representing the duo. He asserted that bail should be refused on the grounds of the seriousness of the matter coupled with the fact that the duo may attempt to flee the jurisdiction as well as the fact that they may make another attempt to pervert the course of justice.
Attorneys for Paul, Keisha Chase and Roger Yearwood, disputed these objections, claiming that they were not based on the premise of the law but were in fact opinionated. Yearwood, in his bail application, stated that his client has been a member of the police force since 2008 and has maintained an exemplary record thus far. He argued that all of the offences against his client are bailable, regardless of whether or not Paul was a flight risk. He also said there was no permissible evidence upon which the claim was based.
Yearwood said Paul has exhibited due diligence with regard to being cooperative and has not made any attempt to flee the jurisdiction. According to him, Paul fully intends to defend his character. Attesting to his client’s integrity, Yearwood argued that if Paul wished to pervert the law, he would have done so when he was granted the opportunity to alter the records in the ammunition book. He suggested that the fact that Paul did not do this implies that he does not wish to interfere with the process.
Yearwood, asking for reasonable bail, stated that the case is just being blown out of proportion because it has been sensationalized. He pleaded to the court to understand that Paul is in a difficult position as he was forced to be incarcerated with persons who would have been imprisoned because of him.
This argument was reinforced by defence counsel for Singh, Arun Gajraj. Gajraj reported to the court that Singh, who has been serving the force since 2003, has an unblemished record and has never, under any circumstances, appeared in court. He said that Singh, who is the father of a three-year-old, currently resides in the Betverwagting Police Compound and can easily report to the station everyday if need be.
As a result of their arguments, the magistrate granted Paul and Singh bail in the amount of $150,000 on the charge of attempting to pervert the law, while Paul was also granted bail in the amount of $70,000 for the charge of assault. She, however, denied bail on the other two charges.
Both Paul and Singh will return to court on June 30, when statements are to be filed.
Griffith had told Stabroek News that he had been at a friend’s home when a robbery occurred outside. Though he had been unable to see what had transpired, he said, two van-loads of policemen later went to his East La Penitence Squatting area home to question him about the identities of the robbers.
He said he told the ranks that he was unaware of the robbers’ identities but was still taken from his home, placed in one of the vehicles and driven around the area. He said the vehicle eventually stopped in front of the home of one of the suspected robbers in the East La Penitence area.
However, the person was not at home and the teen said the accused robber’s absence apparently infuriated Paul, who allegedly forced him from the police vehicle and ordered him to lie on the ground. The Cadet Officer, the boy said, removed all of the bullets from a gun but subsequently replaced one. He then put the gun into the 15-year-old’s mouth. The Cadet Officer, he said, continued to press him for the robbers’ identities. After not receiving a satisfactory answer, the cadet officer pulled the trigger but nothing happened.
Once again, he asked for the identities of the bandits and, when told by Griffith once again that he did not know, he fired a second time. This time, the boy said, the gun went off.
He was dropped off at the hospital by the ranks who left shortly afterwards.