No Separate Trial: Court Denies Indicted House Speaker Request
Monrovia – House Speaker Alex Tyler, indicted on several multiple criminal charges including bribery by the Presidential Taskforce set up to probe the Global Witness Report that linked former and current government to bribery to change the PPCC Act, has been denied a motion for separate trial.
Report by Kennedy L. Yangian – [email protected]
House Speaker Tyler was on May 24, 2016 indicted alongside, Grand Cape Mount Senator Varney Sherman, Richard Tolbert, Ernest C.B. Jones, Christopher Onanuga and British national Andrew Grove by the Grand Jury of Montserrado County sitting in its May 2016 Term of Court on charges of economic sabotage, bribery, criminal conspiracy facilitation & solicitation.
The six defendants have been indicted by the grand jury after the British NGO Global Witness alleged in its May 2016 Report that the Sable Mining, a British company, offered them bribes while serving in various capacities in government in the amount of US$950,000 to change the Public Procurement and Concession Commission Act to grant a concession agreement to the company to mine the Wologizi mountain in Lofa County.
The Global Witness alleged further that Senator Sherman, who is also a lawyer, is reported to have told the company that the only way it could be possible for the Sable Mining to be awarded the concession agreement for Wologizi is to bribe the government officials to change the PPCC Act and declare the area a non-bidding area.
However Speaker Tyler, the man in the center of allegedly being behind the changing of the PPCC Act on July 4, 2016 through his legal counsel headed by Cllr. Johnny Momo, filed a motion to the Criminal Court “C” at the Temple of Justice asking the court for a separate trial for his client, indicating that defendant Tyler’s defenses are in conflict with and antagonistic to the rest of the other defendants
Cllr. Momo indicated to the court that the act and conduct constituting his indictment fall within his duties and responsibilities in keeping with Article 29, and 35 of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia. As well as a letter dated August 5, 2010 forwarded to the Speaker by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to amend the PPCC Act.
Articles 29 and 35 of the 1986 Constitution vest Legislative power in the House of Representatives and Senate to pass all legislations, while Article 35 of the Constitution provides that in order for legislation to be passed by the both Houses to become law, it must be approved by the president.
According to Momo the movant (Tyler) says that consistent with these constitutional provisions, the President, by a letter dated August 5, 2010, forwarded to the movant (Speaker Tyler) the amended and restated Public Procurement and Concession Act (2005) which was submitted to the House of Representatives and same passed and concurred by the Senate and approved by the president and passed into hand bill.
In resistance to the motion, state lawyer Cllr. Daku Mulbah told the court that it is not in dispute that the President submitted a draft PPCC Act neither was it in dispute that the Act was enacted by the legislature and signed by the president and printed into hand bill.
The state’s lawyer indicated that its contention of the indictment is that the movant and others, irrespective of their positions or capacities with full knowledge of their conducts, acted together to commit bribery and other felonious crimes during the passage of the PPCC’s Act in 2010.
Following the pros and cons of the argument for separate trial, Judge Emery Paye indicated that the movant cited Section 16.7 of the Civil Procedure Law which is applicable to a criminal proceeding which grants rights to the court to grant severance trial as to a particular party in the proceeding but the defendant must made known how his defenses are in conflict and antagonistic to the other defendants.
According to Judge Paye, movant has not shown to the satisfaction of the court those defenses that are conflicting and antagonistic to the rest of the defendants indicted to warrant separate trial as the movant only narrated the duties and functions of both Houses.
Judge Paye said these narrations may be raised as better defenses during trial but are not grounds for the granting of separate trial.
“Wherefore and in view of the foregoing, movant’s motion for severance must be and same is hereby denied and the resistance sustained, having denied movant’s motion for severance trial, the court says movant will be tried along with the rest of the co-defendants and is hereby so ordered” said Judge Paye but his ruling was excepted to by movant’s lawyer, Cllr. Momo.