12 December 2012

Liberia: Pelenah Changes Lawyer

Darlington Pelenah, a Liberian broadcast journalist charged with armed robbery along with co-defendants has replaced his lead defense counsel, T. Dempster Brown by Cllr. David Woah over claims that the human rights lawyer (Cllr. Brown) was at loggerhead with the Trial Judge James W. Zotaa in court.

Pelenah, co-defendants Benjamin Bookie Gbar and William P. Randolph were arrested on July 26 and 29, 2012 by police for allegedly armed robbing victims Weeks Thomas, Edwin Thomas and Chris Kettor at the GSA Road Community, allegedly making away with US$17,000 and shooting one of them (Edwin) in the head during the incident.

Apparently unsatisfied with Cllr. Brown's cross examination tactics in which the court asked the defense to either rephrase or deny some of the questions on Monday, the defendants openly announced on Tuesday that Cllr. Woah should hence, take the lead, while Cllr. Brown examines the records in the bar.

Defendant Pelenah said, "We unanimously decided that Cllr. David Woah should be the lead counsel, while Cllr Brown sits in the back to investigate the records before the case started."

But Brown told Judge James W. Zotaa he was leaving the case on grounds that his character was involved, saying "Pelenah claimed I'm at loggerhead with Your Honor."

While refuting the defendants' claims, he also denied defendant Pelenah, saying "I don't know Pelenah; but my client in this case is Benjamin Bookie Gbar- it was [Cllr. Cyreneous] Cephus that inserted him (Pelenah) that's why I have been pleading his case."

After the defense lawyer announced he would observe the case as human rights lawyer, and walked out of the court, Judge Zotaa said there was nothing wrong with the remaining lawyer Cllr. Woah to continue with the trial.

During cross examinations Tuesday, state first witness Edwin Thomas claimed his uncle Weeks Thomas, remained in the front seat of the car during the incident, while Kettor also remained at the back of the car when defendant Darlington Pelenah allegedly ran from the side of their (victims') house at GSA Road, held him (Edwin) at gun point before slapping and stepping on his head, causing him to have bled out of his nose.

He claimed after Pelenah attacked him around the pick's gas tank where he (Edwin) was walking from towards his boss, he (Pelenah) then moved to his uncle Weeks Thomas at the car's front seat and held him at gun point before taking the US$17,000.00 allegedly contained in a plastic.

As the defendants were leaving the alleged crime scene, witness Edwin claimed he recognized Pelenah as the person, who shot him at the back of his head, though he claimed that he turned his face at different direction to avoid Pelenah recognizing him.

The witness continued that at 10 PM he along with his boss Weeks and Kettor packed and drove home, covering an estimated three (3) quarters of a mile from their Forex Exchange Bureau said to be located in the Paynesville, Joe Bar Community area and arrived at their GSA Road Community residence where the alleged armed robbery incident purportedly occurred.

He alleged that while packing, defendant Pelenah dressed in jeans jacket, with face cap and boots, entered the exchange booth and requested to change US$10.00. He alleged that Pelenah was in the same dress code during the execution of the alleged armed robbery mission.

The second witness Weeks Thomas however said, while packing at 10 PM, he denied a man, who had earlier entered the booth to convert some money, but ordered his boys to help convert Pelenah's US$10.00 on grounds that he (Pelenah) was his friend upon being recognized by Edwin Thomas.

He claimed that Pelenah demanded for the US$17,000 during the armed robbery incident among several armed men that attacked them (victim) at their GSA Road house just after they drove home.

Witness Weeks said when police went to investigate the incident, Pelenah and co-defendants had already left the crime scene. The case continues today at the Criminal case Court 'D'.

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