(Barbados Nation) Former cabinet minister Donville Inniss will stand trial on money-laundering charges in a Brooklyn federal court from June 24 next year.
The date was decided on Tuesday afternoon by federal District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto in consultation with Sylvia Shweder, an Assistant US Attorney, and Inniss’ defence attorney, Garnett Sullivan, after the court heard that plea bargain negotiations by the two sides had “stalled” or broken down.
Inniss is accused of accepting bribes from a Barbadian insurance company and then attempting to launder US$36 000 in illegal payment using the “US financial system”. He has pleaded not guilty.
In yesterday’s preliminary hearing before Judge Matsumoto in a sixth-floor federal courtroom, Shweder said efforts to negotiate a plea had “stalled” and the government was now almost ready to bring Inniss to trial.
But Sullivan said the defence had not completed its examination of all of the evidence provided by federal prosecutors during the “discovery” period and therefore needed much more time.
After looking at various possible dates to begin the trial, all sides agreed on June 24 – when the selection of a jury would begin.
“We are ready to start the trial next week,” Shweder said after the “status conference” which lasted less than an hour. But it was now up to the defence to say when it was prepared.
“I will be ready for June 24,” Sullivan said outside of the courtroom immediately after the proceedings ended.
“The customary preliminary plea bargain negotiations in cases of this nature went nowhere because we don’t plan to negotiate a plea. The negotiations are part of the process. That was all to it.”
But inside the courtroom, Sullivan said they were concerned about the “voluminous” nature of the evidence being provided by the prosecution and had been unable to download all of it. That was why they were not in a position to begin the defence before June, an assertion the judge accepted.
To back up his plea for more time, Sullivan informed the judge that the documents they had examined so far indicated that the defence must have witnesses from Barbados to help prove the innocence of the former Minister of International Business.
“It will take a while,” he said, as Inniss sat next to him at the defence table.
The former Member of Parliament for St James South, who lost his seat in the May 24 General Election, remained silent during the proceedings, but made occasional glances at his attorney, the judge and the prosecution.
Few Barbadians were in the court to witness the proceedings.
When the session was over, the usually talkative politician walked out of the courtroom without saying a word to the media. His attorney remained behind and answered questions.
During the conference, which was open to the public, the court heard that Inniss, a green card holder, was residing in Florida.
The former minister was charged in an indictment with one count of conspiracy to launder money and two counts of money laundering.