9 January 2013

Liberia: Convicted Pastor Smiles

Pastor Matthew T. Sakeuh who was earlier convicted shouting "Where's Peter N. Toby?", referring to a reporter of the New Democrat, smiled in court Tuesday when he obtained a judgment reversing his conviction for property theft amounting to US$1 million.

He and his followers turned the Temple of Justice into a dancing arena praising God after presiding Judge Peter W. Gbeneweleh of Criminal Court 'C' set set aside the unanimous guilty verdict earlier handed down against Rev. Sakeuh by the jury.

The judge said the verdict was contrary to the evidence adduced in court by state prosecutors.

The jurors handed down a unanimous guilty verdict on 22 December 2012 against Pastor Sakeuh and his wife Plenseh Sakeuh for theft of property in the amount of US$1 million.

Through their spokesperson, the jurors said they were convinced with the evidence adduced in court by state prosecutors to convict the couple for the crime theft of property.

The jurors further claimed that state prosecutors proved the case to all reasonable doubts to convict the couple.

But in his ruling for motion for new trial, Judge Gbeneweleh said he agreed with defense lawyers' six-count argument state that "the jury's verdict was contrary to the weight of the evidence adduced in court by state prosecutors to convict the defendant."

"State prosecutors did not prove the case beyond all reasonable doubts in keeping with law. Moreover, the verdict did not prove that the defendant is guilty of the crime theft of property, misapplication of entrusted property and criminal conspiracy and theft," the judge pointed out.

He said, in keeping with Section 21.2 of their statute, "a motion for new trial can be granted if the verdict is contrary to the weight of the evidence."

"Therefore, in view of this, a motion for new trial is hereby granted in keeping with law. So ordered," he hammered.

Judge Gbeneweleh's ruling has put state prosecutors into a serious legal predicament whether or not they would be able to adduce new pieces of evidence sufficient enough to convince both the jury and Judge to rule the case in their favor when it is called for trial again.

The Grand Jury of Monsterrado Country indicted the couple in March 2012 on three counts of misapplication of entrusted property, criminal conspiracy and theft of property.

According to the indictment, the authorities of ABC International instead of securing a new parcel of land, their organization AIEM had acquired 52.76 acres of land which Pastor Sakeuh sold to ABC and said deed was transferred to ABC.

ABC agreed based on the suggestion from Pastor Saheuh and his wife and the amount of U$74,000 was transferred to AIEM through LBDI account.

The indictment further claimed that the couple received additional U$32,000 for 72.6 acres of land from ABC International as well as U$21,000 which was uncounted for.

Also U$6,000 was provided to the defendants for preparation, filing and processing of the articles of incorporation for ABC Children Aid Liberia.

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