SENTENCING JAN 17: Triple crown soca artiste Machel Montano, right, and producer Kernal Roberts leave the Port of Spain Magistrates' Court yesterday after they were found guilty of assault charges brought against them in 2007 following an incident outside the Zen nightclub in Port of Spain. —Photo: ANISTO ALVES

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GUILTY

Soca star Machel Montano facing prison on 5 criminal charges: assault and obscene language

By Rickie Ramdass
By rickie.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

AFTER more than five years of bitter legal arguments, repeated adjournments and hundreds of hours of testimony, reigning Groovy and Power Soca Monarch Machel Montano was yesterday found guilty of five criminal charges by a Port of Spain magistrate.

Also being found guilty on two assault charges was Kernal Roberts, producer, songwriter and son of the late calypsonian Lord Kitchener.

Roberts was charged alongside Montano, Rodney "Benjai" LeBlanc, and Joel "Zan" Feveck in connection with the assault of four people outside the Zen nightclub in Port of Spain on April 26, 2007.

LeBlanc and Feveck, however, were both found not guilty by Magistrate Maureen Baboolal-Gafoor on the charges brought against them.

Montano, 37 years old, was charged with the assault of Brandis Browne, Russell Pollonais, Janelle Lee Chee and Gerard Bowrin. He also faced an additional charge of using obscene language.

Roberts and Feveck were accused of assaulting Pollonais and Browne, while LeBlanc faced a single charge of assaulting Pollonais.

Montano and Roberts will be sentenced on January 17.

The men arrived at the courthouse shortly before 10 a.m., and proceeded together with their attorneys to the Seventh Court where the matter was called several minutes later.

The courtroom was packed to capacity with supporters of the men, including Montano's mother Liz Montano and founder of the Caribbean Prestige Foundation William Munro, who sat next to each other.

When the matter was called, Baboolal-Gafoor proceeded to re-read the charges before handing down her ruling.

Montano and the other men stood in the prisoners' dock with their hands clasped behind their backs waiting for the magistrate's decision.

Whispers and gasps filled the courtroom from those sitting in the public gallery when Baboolal-Gafoor announced that Montano had been found guilty of the offences. Montano was however expressionless.

Asked by the magistrate to have a seat, Montano and Roberts sat side by side in the prisoners' dock as Montano's attorney Dana Seetahal SC made a plea in mitigation on his behalf.

Seetahal submitted that despite her client being found guilty of five offences, all of the charges had arisen out of a single incident outside the nightclub along Keate Street.

She said since the day of the incident Montano has not had any run-ins with the law, neither did he have any pending matters before the court.

"All of this occurred out of one incident which took place five years ago. These offences have been hanging over his head for several years and since then he has had no brush with the law. He has also represented this country successfully at an international level and is an ambassador for Trinidad and Tobago," said Seetahal.

She stated that at the time of the incident, Montano was at the nightclub along with several of his friends celebrating his earning the Road March title of that year with "Jumbie".

Seetahal said Montano was "going about his own business with his friends when he was approached to take photographs, not once, not twice, but three times and all of this was triggered by a drink that was spilled."

Following her mitigation plea, the matter was stood down for a brief period as the court awaited the arrival of Roberts's attorney Keith Scotland.

It was recalled shortly before 11 a.m. when Scotland arrived. He told the court Roberts had a clean criminal record and was a prolific music producer, having written five songs which resulted in the performers of those songs, including Montano, capturing Road March titles.

Scotland said his client was also the father of three children, in whose lives he played an active role. Additionally, Roberts is a motivational speaker for youths in the Diego Martin and Morvant area and would usually give speeches urging those youths to steer clear from a life of crime, he said.

Scotland asked that his client be ordered to serve community service in order for him to maintain a clean criminal record.

However, Baboolal-Gafoor said in order for someone to be ordered to serve community service a probation officer's report needed to be obtained. She said the defendant also needed to agree to serve community service before adjourning the matter to January 17 for sentencing.

Following the adjournment, both Montano and Roberts hastily left the courthouse without stopping to speak with reporters.

The men first appeared in the Port of Spain Court for the offences on June 4, 2007, before Magistrate Lianne Lee-Kim.

During the early stages of the trial, the matter was prosecuted by Carla Brown-Antoine. She was eventually replaced by Senior State Attorney George Busby after she was appointed a High Court judge.

The State's case against Montano was that in a fit of rage he assaulted the four people outside the club after one of them spilled a drink on one of his (Montano's) female friends while they were dancing in the club.

Montano, however, denied the accusations, saying he was the one that was attacked by the group and cursed and spat at.

During his testimony which lasted ten days, Montano maintained his position, telling the court he could not have attacked any of the victims as he was constantly surrounded and protected by three bouncers at the club after the fracas broke out.

Roberts had also given evidence in the matter for several days. Feveck and LeBlanc had both refused to testify.

They briefly spoke with reporters after the ruling saying they would continue to support Montano and Roberts. Feveck said he had to question the outcome of the matter as he did not know if his and LeBlanc's non-testimony worked to their benefit.

The charges Machel Montano: On April 26, 2007 at Keate Street, Port of Spain: 1. Assaulted Russell Pollonais occasioning him actual bodily harm. 2. Assaulted Brandis Browne occasioning him actual bodily harm. 3. Assaulted Gerard Bowrin. 4. Assaulted Janelle Lee Chee. 5. Used obscene language to the annoyance of persons. Kernal Roberts: On April 26, 2007 at Keate Street, Port of Spain: 1. Assaulted Russell Pollonais occasioning him actual bodily harm. 2. Assaulted Brandis Browne occasioning him actual bodily harm. Joel "Zan" Feveck: On April 26, 2007, at Keate Street, Port of Spain: 1. Assaulted Russell Pollonais occasioning him actual bodily harm. 2. Assaulted Brandis Browne occasioning him actual bodily harm. Rodney "Benjai" LeBlanc: On April 26, 2007, at Keate Street, Port of Spain: Assaulted Russell Pollonais occasioning him actual bodily harm.

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