The NEWS (Monrovia)

Liberia: Defendants Plea Not Guilty

Former Kings FM News Director Darlington Pelenah and two others accused of arm robbery have pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against them.

Journalist Pelenah, Benjamin Bookie Gbar and William P. Randolph separately pleaded not guilty following the reading of a twelve-count indictment by the clerk of court.

The defendants were indicted in August this year for their alleged role in the commission of arm robbery in Monrovia.

The trial commenced Thursday at the Criminal Court "A" at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia, presided over by Judge James W. Zotaa, Jr. who is also presiding Judge for Court "D" for the November Term of court.

With the defendants pleading not guilty to the crime indicates that they have joined issue with the state to proceed with prosecution.

Prosecution lawyers prayed the court for a jury trial in keeping with the laws of Liberia. The prosecution said their request is intended to provide free, fair and impartial trial for the defendants.

Prosecution said in order to avoid interference with the work of the selected jurors, the court should ensure that qualified jurors are sequestrated.

In support of prosecution's request, defense lawyers accepted, saying the application prayed for by the prosecution is in the interest of justice, considering the wave of infiltrations that are experienced with jurors during trials.

However, Judge Zotaa granted the request and promised to communicate with the acting Chief Justice in keeping with judicial tradition to make available funds for the process.

The Judge said the case will be regularly assigned by notice of assignments when the necessary logistics and resources are made available for the process.

According to a three (3) page indictment drawn by the Grand Jury for Montserrado County on August 20, 2012, the defendants committed the crime on July 25 in the GSA Road community in Paynesville, outside Monrovia.

The twelve (12) counts indictment stated that on the above mentioned date, as complainant Weeks Thomas and his boys, Edwin Thomas and Chris Kettor drove home from their business center (Forex Exchange Bureau), the defendants rushed on them with several single barrel guns and immediately placed the complainant at gun-point and commanded them to lie on the ground.

The document said it was at that point one of the defendants grabbed the plastic that was containing US$17,000 and made away with it, while firing above their heads.

The indictment stated that prior to the departure of the defendants, one of the plaintiffs, Edwin Thomas, managed to have recognized Pelenah and was reportedly slapped in the face by Pelenah.

"It was then that he (Thomas) was shot in the head by one of the defendants and was taken to the Catholic Hospital," the indictment noted.

The defendants were separately arrested on July 26 and 29, 2012 at different locations in Monrovia. Since their arrests, there have been public outcries about their release or a speedy trial for the suspects. However, Arm robbery is a capital offence and is a non-bailable crime punishable by life imprisonment or death based on its degree.

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