SECURITY was increased in and around the Port of Spain Magistrates’ Court yesterday as three men and a woman were brought to the courthouse to face several charges under the Anti-Gang Act, along with attempted murder and conspiracy to murder.
It was the first time since the limited State of Emergency in 2011 that people have been arrested and charged under the Act.
Among those who appeared before Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar was alleged gang leader Anthon “Boombie” Boney, 30.
The others were Nigel “Tech-9” Sandy, Jameel “World Boss” Earl, 24, and his mother Denyse Earl, 42.
The quartet were brought to the court shortly before noon by members of the Gang Intelligence Unit. Moments before their arrival, heavily-armed police officers stood guard along St Vincent Street, where the court is located.
Pedestrians were prevented from walking along the pavement close to the gateway leading to the holding cells of the court, while vehicular traffic was temporarily blocked in order to facilitate the arrival of the police vehicle transporting the accused.
Upon their arrival, the police van hastily reversed onto the court compound and the accused were quickly taken into the building, barring them from the glare of the media and other onlookers.
Police said the heavy turnout of officers was in order to maintain law and order if the men’s supporters, who gathered along the roadway, became unruly. Two women engaged in a fist fight, resulting in both of them being detained by the police.
Around 1 p.m., the three men appeared before Ayers-Caesar in the Eighth Court. Their friends and family members occupied most of the seating area in the public gallery.
The men were jointly charged with being gang members; attempting to murder Gregory Goodridge on July 26 last year in Port of Spain; conspiracy to murder Kevon Cooper between July 11 and August 3 last year; and coercing Khadeem Blake to become a gang member.
Boney faced an additional charge of being a gang leader.
The woman, who appeared alone, faced two charges of supporting the activity of a gang and assisting an activity to the benefit of a gang between July 30 and 31 last year.
People charged under the Act are not eligible for bail for a period of 120 days.
Those found guilty of being a gang member can be sentenced to a maximum of ten years in prison, while someone charged with being a gang leader can serve up to 25 years behind bars.
Boney’s attorney Wayne Sturge submitted that he was aware the court did not have the authority to dictate where a prisoner is detained, but asked that a note be made outlining that his client had received death threats from inmates operating criminal gangs within the prisons.
Police officers had also issued death threats against Boney, the attorney alleged.
Sturge said Boney, who lives at Africa Road, John John, had two wives as a result of his religious affiliation and six children and was dependent on diabetic medication.
He said since his arrest on Friday, officers seized his medication and refused to return it after Boney failed to cooperate with police because he was not being allowed his right to have an attorney present during questioning.
Sturge said attorney Criston J Williams, who is also representing Boney, was “given a run around” by the officers after he attempted to visit his client. He added it was only after Williams filed a writ of habeus corpus at the High Court in Port of Spain on Monday night to have Boney released from custody did the officers move to lay the charges, around 11.30 p.m.
Sturge said he was also asking that the prosecution make available all disclosable material in the shortest possible time in order to have a speedy hearing of the matters.
Defence attorney Patrick Godson-Phillip provided legal representation for both Jameel Earl and his mother.
Godson-Phillip said Earl, who lives at Nelson Street, Port of Spain, had also received death threats from prison inmates.
The woman, who lives at Las Alturas, off Lady Young Road in Morvant, remained traumatised since her arrest on Friday, said Godson-Phillip.
He said when she was taken into custody, she was not advised by the police she had a right to have an attorney present during interrogation. He, too, asked for disclosure in the matter.
Sandy, of Oropune Gardens, Piarco, was represented by attorney Richard Clarke-Wills, while attorneys with the Police Service Legal Department, Insp Richard Taylor and Cpl Kelston Pope, prosecuted.
In response to the applications made for disclosure, Taylor said the relevant files needed to be sent to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in order to have a State attorney appointed. Taylor said as soon as the files become available to the prosecution, they will be handed over to defence counsel. The matters were then adjourned to March 6.
In 2011, a total of 437 people were held under the Anti-Gang legislation, with 236 of them being charged with being gang leaders and members.
Eventually, 235 of them were released after the DPP’s office submitted there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.