Prosecution Or Persecution: Is GoL “Suppressing Evidence” In Trial Of Cummings?￼
On January 3, 2022, on the complaint of All Liberian Party (ALP), represented by its Chairman, Theodore Momo, Magistrate Jomah Jallah issued a writ of arrest for Alexander Cummings, Standard Bearer of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), and subsequently, co-defendants Daniel Naathen and Aloysius Toe, Chairman and Secretary-General, respectively of the ANC, on charges of “forgery and criminal conspiracy”. The substance of the complaint is that “the defendants…out of deception, surreptitiously altered the framework document of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP).”
On Friday, March 18, 2022, in the ongoing trial, Cllr. Abrahim B. Sillah, the Lead Defense Lawyer, drew the court’s attention to the alleged Prosecution’s “suppression of evidence which is favorable to the establishment of the innocence of the accused.” The Government of Liberia Prosecutorial Team is being led by the Solicitor-General, Cllr. Syrennius Cephas.
The Defense claimed that the Prosecution, “with intent to engage in the political persecution of Cummings, unscrupulously and unethically suppressed impeachable pieces of evidence which will undermine prosecution’s case against the accused, and testify to the baselessness of the charges”; further describing the alleged action of the government prosecution as “a grave misconduct which violates the settled practice, standard and purpose for criminal prosecution in the country.”
In denying the Defense’s claim, the Solicitor-General released a public statement in which he asserts that “it’s very shameful for anyone claiming to be a lawyer to challenge a document that has been testified to, identified, and confirmed by the witness on the stand, and then marked by the court.” Furthermore, the SG “categorically denies violating Rule 7 of the Rules of Moral Code and Ethical Conduct”.
Cllr. Sillah has clarified to FPA that the Defense’s claim of “evidence suppression” which was discovered while cross examining the Prosecution’s first witness and lead complainant, Theodore Momo, is not that the “documents testified to, identified and confirmed by the prosecution’s witness, and marked by the court” are not also from the same Chatroom of the National Advisory Council (NAC) of the CPP, but that the Prosecution intentionally omitted some pages from court’s marked exhibits “P/6” and “P/13”.
Cllr. Sillah explained that the omitted pages contained impeachable pieces of evidence favorable to the Defendants and that could be used to impeach the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses. Cllr. Sillah furthered that “P/6’’ and “P/13’’ were among the documents presented to the Defense by the Prosecution, in keeping with the orders of the court at Discovery.
However, the Defense was shocked to observe that the Prosecution intentionally omitted the pages containing these impeachable WhatsApp Text Messages before presenting the documents in court for Theodore Momo to testify to, identify and confirm them on direct examination.
“In some cases”, according to Sillah, “entire conversations have been omitted in the same chain of conversations, when all of the evidence, of both exculpatory (favorable to the accused) and inculpatory (favorable to the prosecution) in the possession of the prosecution should have been presented.”
Continuing, the Lead Defense Lawyer said, “the Prosecution should not have removed or deleted those conversations from the chain of conversations after it presented “P/6 & P13’’ to the Defense on the orders of the court.”
Adding: “The effect of the intentional omission of those material conversations is that the Defense cannot cross examine or ask Theodore Momo any question related to the omitted conversations because they are not in the said “P/6 & P13’’ testified to, identified and confirmed by Theodore Momo.
According to Cllr. Sillah, “the extracted pieces of evidence would lead any reasonable mind, or impartial investigative body, to the conclusion that the defendants have been falsely accused, the charges against them are trumped-up, and the ongoing prosecution is motivated by lies, deception and a political conspiracy against Cummings and the other accused persons.”
The Lead Defense Lawyer concluded that this is “contrary to the practice of criminal law in our country where at Discovery, the Prosecution is not permitted to withhold, suppress or extract evidence they know, or have reasons to know, do not support their charges, and or operate to prove the innocence of the accused or mitigate the sentence.”
Magistrate Jomah Jallah has ordered an investigation into the defense’s claim. No timeframe has been given for the investigation.
Meanwhile, FPA has been digging into the Chatroom of the National Advisory Council of the CPP, and can independently confirm that the chain of communication with respect to reviewing, acquiring signatures, submissions and notarizations of consenting parties’ resolutions, and sharing of the Final Framework Agreement to all the parties prior to the filing with the National Elections Commissions on July 14, were omitted from “P/6 & 13’’ by the Prosecution before presenting the said documents in court for Theodore Momo to testify, identify and confirm.
FPA also found that CPP Chairman Cummings kept his colleagues consistently informed beginning with the review by the Legal Advisors of the Framework Agreement, and including reporting progress on the registration of the CPP. He was variously commended for his works during that period.
Below, we reproduce conversations from the NAC Chatroom relevant to the Framework Agreement and registration of the CPP, which according to the writ of arrest “surreptitiously” done. As previously indicated, a number of conversations were not included in the Prosecution’s submission to the Defense at Discovery, and during direct examination of its first witness:
- On June 22, 2020, at 2:01:01PM, the CPP National Advisory Council Chatroom was created by Alexander Cummings. It included all four political leaders, party chairpersons, head of CPP Legislative Caucus, and other relevant executives of the four parties. Cummings issued the first broadcast message announcing the creation, and notice for a meeting with the “Legal Advisors” which was scheduled for the next day, and widely acknowledged.
- On June 25, 2020, at 12:40:09PM, Cummings posted a document titled: Issues Arising from Review of the CPP Framework.docx. At 12:45:37PM, Cummings followed the post with the explanation: Colleagues, here is the document from the lawyers with the key issues they suggest we change in the FA. I’m forwarding next the FA for each Party’s EC to review and approve. IT IS CRITICAL THAT WE STICK TO THE TIMELINE AGREED FOR EACH PARTY TO SUBMIT THE RESPECTIVE RESOLUTION. WE RUN THE RISK OF NOT GETTING THE CPP CERTIFIED IN TIME TO REGISTER OUR CANDIDATES IF WE DO NOT MEET THE DEADLINE.
- On the same day, at 12:46:28PM, Cummings posted the FINAL DRAFT OF CPP FRAMEWORK – JUNE 18, 2020.docx by the Legal Advisors.
- On the same day, at 12:48:06PM, Cummings again texted: Here are the dates we discussed and agreed at Tuesday’s meeting: Parties’ Review of Legal Draft -Tues June 23- Saturday June 27; Submission of Feedback – Sunday June 28; Compilation of Feedback by Legal Team – Monday June 29- Wed July 1; Joint Ratification by all parties – Thursday July 2; Submission of Resolutions by each party- Friday July 3; Submission of CPP documentation to NEC for Certification:
- On the same day, at 12:49:07PM, Cummings texted: I will be in touch with each Party’s Chair to ensure we meet these dates. Thanks in advance to all.
- On June 27, at 9:13:25AM, Theodore Mom, Jr. responded: Thanks, noted.
- On the same day, at 9:14:54AM, Darius Dillon responded with 3 praying hands.
- On June 28, 2020, at 8:58:12PM, Joseph Boakai texted: Mr. Chairman, the secretariat is very critical now for information dissemination and the involvement of our party officials and actors to act within time or NEC will use this against us. There must be point persons to make sure things are done timely.
- On June 29, 2020, at 3:26:25PM, Cummings texted: Colleagues, yesterday was the due date for any proposed changes to the FA for each party. It is URGENT that we submit the FA and the Resolution from each Party to the NEC on Friday as agreed. Unless we are certified, our Bi Election candidates cannot be register as CPP candidates. Please comply with the deadlines.
- On the same day, at 5:57:58PM, Theodore Momoh, Jr. responded: True, the ALP is working hard at it.
- On June 30, 2020, at 2:02:12PM, Cummings texted: Colleagues, I will be setting up a zoom call for tomorrow evening. We need to agree on finalizing the senatorial candidate selection process. Also, a reminder to please complete your Framework Agreement resolution so we can file on Monday. It is absolutely critical that all Parties please comply. We are cutting things very close. If you have any proposed changes, let’s discuss it tomorrow night. Thanks!!!
- On the same day, at 2:16:58PM, Theodore Momoh responded: Noted.
- On July 1, at 7:19:23AM, Moriah Yeakula sent out the zoom invites for 7PM.
- On the same day, at 7:25:56AM, Cummings texted: Agenda: Moment of Silence; Each Party to provide status update on the FA resolution; County Bi Election Selection Process and Next Steps; AOB; Closing Prayers.
- On July 7, 2020, at 2:04:57PM, Cummings texted: Colleagues, I hope this meets all of you well and safe. A quick update since our last zoom call: We have received resolutions on the FA from all parties with only one remaining to be notarized. We have a commitment that it will be done today. We (through Mo Ali) will be coming to each of the PL’s for your signature on the final FA. With that and the resolutions, we will be filing for the CPP certification tomorrow with the NEC. The first meeting of the VPS/Senatorial selection committee is scheduled for 2pm today. They will be charged with expeditiously finalizing the candidate selection process. As you recall, 8 counties were agreed and they will finalize the remaining 7 by using the processes outlined in the FA – VPS, Primaries, etc. I will share with you their recommendations, but please be assayed we will push them to move with urgency. Please revert with any comments or suggestions. Thanks!!!
- On the same day, at 2:08:23PM, Steve Zargo responded: Noted and thank you so much.
- On the same day, at 2:17:27PM, Theodore Momoh wrote: The National Chairpersons should be signing the FA as well?
- On the same day, at 2:20:50PM, Cummings replied: Yes, I believe they should. We will try to coordinate all the signatures so we can file tomorrow.
- On the same day, at 3:58:20PM, Musa Bility wrote: Thank you very much Mr. Chairman.
- On the same day, at 4:00:22PM, Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence wrote: Thanks, and added a praying hand.
- On the same day, at 5:23:12PM, Hanson Kiazolu wrote: Thanks Mr. Chairman.
- On the same day, at 7:41:33PM, Joseph Papa Kolleh wrote: Thanks Mr. Chairman.
- On July 8, 2020, at 2:45:11AM, Larry Younquoi wrote: Kudos to you, Mr. Chairman.
- On July 9, 2020, at 1:27:20PM, Cummings posted: FINAL CPP FRAMEWORK DOCUMENT.pdf
- On the same day, at 1:28:18PM, Cummings texted: For your information and record. The final copy of the CPP FA.
- On the same day, at 2:02:40PM, Theodore Momoh responded: Thanks!
- On July 13, 2020, at 4:53:08PM, Cummings texted: Colleagues, I’ve forwarded Committee recommendations from the Secretariat and approved by the NEC. We need each Party to recommend names for the Party designated slots. If helpful, we can host a zoom call on Wednesday to answer any questions you may have or please forward your names through you representative to the Secretariat. Let me know what you prefer. Thanks!!!
- On July 14, 2020, at 7:21:16AM, Musa Bility wrote: Thanks Mr. Chairman. Good progress.
- On the same day, at 7:23:32AM, Joseph Boakai wrote: Thanks Mr. Chair, we’re moving!
- On the same day, at 7:23:56AM, Joseph Papa Kolleh wrote: Good morning Mr. Chairman, thanks for the information.
- On the same day, at 7:36:25AM, Hanson Kiazolu wrote: Thanks very so good chairman Cummings.
- On the same day, at 10:45:38AM, Cummings wrote: Colleagues, I hope this meets everyone well and staying sage. I’ve fowled a statement we want to issue just to clarify where we are wrt the senatorial selection process. It is for transparency for both our partisans and the public. It is consistent with what we agreed at our last NAC meeting.
- On the same day, at 10:46:40AM, Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence wrote: Good job Mr. Chairman!