By Alexander Bruzual
December 11, 2012 – newsday.co.tt
REIGNING Soca Monarch and Road March King Machel Montano was yesterday found guilty by a Port-of-Spain magistrate of five criminal charges of assault and using obscene language during a fracas near the Zen nightclub in Port-of-Spain five years ago.
Montano gasped in the Seventh Court when he was told, he was guilty as charged by Magistrate Maureen Baboolal-Gafoor. He stood next to performing artistes Kernel Roberts, son of deceased Calypso icon Aldwyn ‘Lord Kitchener’ Roberts, 2011 Young Kings Calypso Monarch Rodney “Benjai” LeBlanc and Joel “Zan” Feveck.
The four were jointly charged with assaulting Russel Pollonais and Brandis Brown, while Montano faced additional charges of assaulting Janelle Lee Chee and Gerard Bowrin and using obscene language during a fracas near the Zen nightclub on Keate Street in Port-of-Spain on April 26, 2007. The court was packed to capacity with relatives and friends of the four accused men who came to lend support. As the four and their relatives and friends waited in court for the case to be called, everyone appeared relaxed and there was an air of confidence that the accused would be not guilty.
Shortly after entering the courtroom at 10.10 am, Baboolal-Gafoor began reading the charges along with the corresponding verdicts which she had reached in relation to each accused man.
In relation to the charges of wounding Pollonais and Brown with intent to commit actual bodily harm, Baboolal-Gafoor found Montano and Roberts guilty. She also found Montano guilty of the remaining three charges. Both LeBlanc and Feveck were both found not-guilty in relation to the assault charges.
As the verdicts were read, the silence of the courtroom gave way to gasps of disbelief from the four accused and their relatives and friends.
Montano, Roberts, LeBlanc and Feveck started whispering among themselves. Montano’s attorney Dana Seetahal SC, quickly rose and indicated to the court that she was prepared to make a plea of mitigation. Seetahal noted that prior to this ruling, her client was a man with a clean record and no previous convictions or pending matters before the court.
She noted that since the matter was first called, five years ago, Montano has had no other brushes with the law and kept a clean slate.
Seetahal noted that Montano has been in the public light since he was eight and has been successfully representing Trinidad and Tobago at international level since then. He is, she said, a United Nations Goodwill ambassador to this country.
Roberts’ attorney Keith Scotland also delivered a plea of mitigation, saying his client’s accomplishments as well as contribution to society and local culture, are without question. “He is a family man who looks after his three children and provides for them financially and emotionally.
“He instills in them his strong spiritual beliefs. He is a financial sponsor of the Caribbean Steel Paradise, a youth steel orchestra in Morvant, and the Covigne All Stars, a youth football team in Diego Martin. He is also a motivational speaker to youths in crime hotspot areas of Diego Martin and Morvant,” Scotland pleaded.
He said Roberts had no previous conviction or pending matters prior to Baboolal-Gafoor’s verdict and asked the court if it could be so minded as to consider community service as a form of punishment for his client.
At this suggestion, Baboolal-Gafoor noted that if the court is so minded to reach such a decision, it would first need, among other things, a Probation Officer’s report on the accused. The case was then adjourned to January 17, when Baboolal-Gafoor is expected to indicate the kind of punishment to be meted out to the guilty men. Montano and Roberts quickly exited the courtroom and refused to speak to reporters on the pavement outside the courthouse. LeBlanc and Feveck maintained their support for their friends as they spoke briefly to reporters.
“While we have been vindicated in this regard (based on the not-guilty verdict), I still think this was too long in coming. It’s too long we going on with this here. As it relates to Machel and Roberts, I support them 100 percent because despite what the ruling was, in my view, we are all innocent in this,” LeBlanc said.
Roberts was also represented by attorney Daniel Khan while Feveck was defended by Larry Williams. Rajiv Persad, John Heath and Shalini Khan appeared for Le Blanc.
Throughout the course of the trial, the State has been represented by then Acting Director of Public Prosecutions Carla Brown-Antoine and George Busby. During the trial, the state led evidence from several witnesses that on April 26, 2007 Montano, Roberts, Le Blanc and Feveck were involved in a brawl with several persons near the Zen nightclub in which Pollonais was beaten unconscious.