NINE men of Sangre Grande and Toco accused of being gang members were yesterday set free because of a lack of evidence.
The release of the men brings to an end several weeks of charges being dismissed against people charged under the Anti-Gang Act, which began on September 12, with the release of the "Nelson Street 21".
Statistics by the Public Affairs Unit (PAU) of the Police Service revealed that a total of 449 people were arrested under the legislation with 236 charged since the start of the State of Emergency on August 21.
An Express tally to date showed that 236 people have already had charges dismissed against them throughout the country. The PAU's figures did not take into account an additional seven accused people whose matters are being pursued by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard.
Senior State attorney George Busby yesterday informed Sangre Grande Magistrate Anna Ryan that Gaspard asked that the matters be discontinued against the men.
There was jubilation outside the courthouse as the men accused of being members of an unnamed gang in Cumana Village, Toco and the G-Unit Blue Pitt gang at Wallenville, Sangre Grande, were freed.
The accused men included Lloyd "LJ" Solomon, 29, who was charged with being the leader and a member of the G-Unit Blue Pitt gang. Ashton "Lappe" Beckles, 24; Victor "Doolie" Trim, 26; and David "Peel" Moore, 25, all of Wallenville Road, were charged with being members of the same gang.
Trevor "Foxy" King, 36, was also charged with being the leader and member of an unnamed gang in Cumana Village, Toco, while Karrel Parvy, 30, and brothers Ron and Reno Sampson, both aged 30, and Garfield Joseph were charged with being members of the same gang.
Addressing the court, Busby indicated that, based on the statements Gaspard received in the matters against the men, he (Gaspard) was of the view there would not be a successful prosecution.
He however maintained that the arrest and detention of the men were justified since 'there was reasonable suspicion that the men had committed an offence'.
"... (The DPP) considered all the statements and the DPP was of the view that, in neither of the cases, the evidential stage of the full code test was passed and some of the considerations he made was the admissibility of the evidence- that some of it was hearsay and would not be admitted- the creditability, the reliability, or the accuracy."
"When he (Gaspard) looked at all of those considerations, he felt that the broad extent of the criminality had not been proven and therefore there was no reasonable prospect of conviction since the tests that he applied in deciding in whether to continue a charge- that there is a reasonable prospect of conviction- he felt that there wasn't such in either of these matters," Busby said.
He later stated that Gaspard had decided not to offer any evidence against the nine men, who were later told by Ryan that they were free to go. They were represented by attorneys Carl Quamina, Armelle Francis, Trevor Clarke and Ivan Daniel while Cpl Junior Bernard laid the charges.
The freed men declined to speak with the media after exiting the courthouse where they hugged and kissed family and friends, under the watchful eyes of heavily armed officers from the Eastern Division Task Force who were providing additional security around the court.
Meanwhile, seven other men— members of the alleged Deportee Gang in Sangre Grande- will go on trial before Ryan on November 16 . Each accused has secured attorneys to represent them.
The accused are Shawn "Fat Shawn" Homer, 33, who is charged with being the leader and a member of the Deportee Gang at McShine Street, Sangre Grande; Anand Mohepath, 27; Alvin Fitzpatrick, 30; Kadeem "Bully" Romero, 22; brothers Carlos and Marlon Gonzales, ages 31 and 29; and Shawn "X-Man" Sandy, 36; were charged with being members of the same gang.
The trial date was agreed to by Busby, the prosecutor in the case, and attorneys for the accused. The accused are the first, since the enforcement of the Anti-Gang Act and the arrests of 236 alleged gang members, Gaspard had decided to pursue gang-related charges. Detective Verson Jeanville of the Eastern Division CID charged the accused.