(Trinidad Guardian) Soca superstar Machel Montano and music producer Kernal Roberts have won their appeal against their convictions for assaulting a group of friends at a nightclub, almost a decade ago.
However, their legal victory was bittersweet as the court felt that a retrial was appropriate in their case.
Delivering a 87-page judgment at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain yesterday morning, Appellate Judges Alice Yorke-Soo Hon and Mark Mohammed ruled that their convictions could not stand as former magistrate Maureen Baboolal-Gafoor, failed to give reasons for her decision.
“It was necessary for the magistrate to explain, in adequate detail without any need to be over-elaborate, how she determined th credibility issues in respect of the prosecutions witnesses in arriving at her decision to convict the appellants,” the judges said.
They went on: “The absence of written and/or oral reasons in thi regard has therefore prejudiced the appellants in advancing their appeal and has deprived this court of its ability to perform its appellate review function.”
Baboolal-Gafoor could not have been called upon to give reasons retroactively for the appeal as she had retired before it came up for hearing.
Montano was not present for the hearing and was represented by his mother.
Immediately following their decision, the court invited submissions from defence attorneys and prosecutors on whether a retrial was necessary.
Montano’s lawyer Jagdeo Singh submitted that over a decade had elapsed since the incident had occurred and evidence would be in a state of disarray.
Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) George Busby disagreed as he pointed out that the case was significantly smaller as soca stars Joel “Zan” Feveck and Rodney “Benjai” Le Blanc, who were charged and freed by Baboolal-Gafoor, would not face retrial.
He also noted that he had spoken to the alleged victims last week and they were ready and willing to testify once again.
The court agreed with Busby as it ruled that the retrial was in the public’s interest.
Stating that both Montano and Roberts were national icons, Yorke-Soo Hon said: “It is unquestionably in the public’s interest to have these matter resolved.”
Before ending the hearing, Yorke-Soo Hon placed both men on $50,000 bail with their mothers Valerie Green (Roberts) and Elizabeth Montano (Montano) being named as their surety.
Montano and Roberts were also represented by Keith Scotland, Larry Williams, Daniel Khan, Kiel Tacklalsingh, Criston Williams and Ananda Rampersad.
ABOUT THE CASE
The charges arose out of a brawl at the Zen Nightclub at Keate Street in Port-of-Spain on April 20, 2007, while Montano was celebrating winning that year’s Road March title.
Montano, Roberts, Le Blanc and Feveck were all charged with various crimes based on their alleged involvement in the fracas.
All four were charged with assaulting Russell Pollonais, while all except Le Blanc were charged with assaulting Brandis Brown.
Montano was solely charged with assaulting Janelle Lee Chee and Gerard Bowrin and for using obscene language.
Montano and Roberts were convicted of their charges, while Le Blanc and Feveck were found not guilty.
Montano was slapped with a $13,000 fine and ordered to pay the victims $13,500 in restitution, while Roberts was given a $13,000 fine and $11,000 in restitution.