3 December 2018

Liberia: Magistrate Peabody in 'Constitutional Abuse'

"Peabody has intent for his action, because nowhere under our law with a bail not being challenged by any of the parties that a judge would deny. This is a miscarriage of justice and it must stop immediately," Cllr. Massaquoi said.

After Magistrate Kennedy Peabody refused to approve a US$184,000 bond on Tuesday, November 27 that could have prevented Ambassador Augustine Weah and three other senior members of the National Housing Authority (NHA) from going to jail, defense lawyer Jonathan Massaquoi says it is "a blatant violation and abuse" of the accused, according to the 1986 Constitution.

The US$184,000 rejected bond was filed by the Accident & Casualty Insurance Company (ACICO), one of the reliable insurance companies in the country.

It was intended to release the suspects, and have them appear at a scheduled court date to answer to multiple charges that range from theft of property, economic sabotage, bribery, criminal conspiracy, and criminal solicitation.

ACICO has withdrawn the US$184,000 bond posted for the accused, which defense lawyer Massaquoi has blamed on Magistrate Peabody.

Defendant Weah, together with suspended managing director Duannah Siryon, Isaac Roberts, Tugbeh C. Tugbeh and Patrick Deline, were accused of extorting US$92,000 from a man identified as Emmanuel Tapsoba, former coordinator for a Burkina Faso company called GHLPAZ-IMMO, which has been in the country to construct over 5,000 housing units along the Roberts International Airport (RIA) highway.

"We did everything legally with the government lawyers to have Peabody see reason to sign the bond, but he refused to do it," the defense team led by lawyers Massaquoi told journalists at the Temple of Justice.

"Peabody has intent for his action, because nowhere under our law with a bail not being challenged by any of the parties that a judge would deny. This is a miscarriage of justice and it must stop immediately," Massaquoi said.

Magistrate Kennedy Peabody

The November 27 hearing into the case, a copy of which is with the Daily Observer, quoted Magistrate Peabody as saying, "The matter is suspended pending notice of assignment and the bond submitted by the defense counsel will be perused and if it meets the legal requirement it would be approved."

A member of the prosecution, Kpoto Gizzie, commented that "a bond is a matter of right under the Constitution and the state, which is not interested to put the suspects behind bars, did not interpose any objection."

The suspects are currently detained at the Monrovia Central Prison until Magistrate Peabody can complete his perusal of the bond, an action which the defense claimed violated Article 21 d (i) of the Constitution, which qualifies the accused for bail.

That article states "All accused persons shall be bailable upon their personal recognizance or by sufficient sureties, depending upon the gravity of the charge, unless charged for capital offenses or grave offenses as defined by law."

"The question that remains to be answered is whether the crimes qualified the suspects for a bond as provided by the article, what is behind Magistrate Peabody's refusal to sign it?" said a frustrated onlooker.

Furthermore, Massaquoi claimed that Peabody may have abused his judicial power and committed an ethical violation by rejecting a bail that was never challenged by the state's prosecution.

"Rejection of a bail under our law was not in the purview of a magistrate, it is the responsibility of circuit court judges and not Magisterial Court," Massaquoi explained. "The Magisterial Court is only responsible for the preliminary investigation of a bond and not to reject it."

"This is a miscarriage of justice on the part of Magistrate Peabody by breaching his judicial power to deny the bond," Massaquoi emphasized.

"This is a bad mistake against an established law during a bond hearing and abuse of discretion and maybe he was under an intense external pressure," the defense lawyer observed.

Judge Boima Kontoe of Criminal Court 'C' cited Magistrate Peabody for a conference on Wednesday, November 28 on the very matter.

Peabody's citation, dated November 28, a copy of which is in the possession of the Daily Observer, partly reads: "You are hereby cited into the Judge's Chamber on Wednesday, November 28, the same day to probe summary proceedings filed against you by Counselors Jonathan Massaquoi and Wiefueh Alfred Sayeh."

Court documents showed that the Magistrate did not comply with the citation.

Judge Kontoe's citation to Peabody was as a result of a 'Petition for Summary Proceedings' filed by the defense team, claiming "misuse of the power of his office by denying suspects a valid bond that was never protested."

Authors

Abednego Davis

Liberia

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