By Grace Q. Bryant
The Monrovia City Court known as the court of non-records has granted the Alternative National Congress (ANC) political leader, Alexander Cummings’ motion for withdrawal of the case with prejudice against the Government of Liberia but prosecution excepted to the ruling.
“The defendants are ordered discharged from further answering to allegations contained in the complaint and crimes with which they were charged and prosecuted, furthermore, the defendants liberties are restored as though they were never limited or restricted and the cash bond proffered by the defendants are ordered return,” and that was how Magistrate Jomah Jallah concluded the six months old trial at the City Court of Monrovia yesterday.
Magistrate Jallah’s decision yesterday decision came when the state lawyer entered a plea of Nolle prosequoi in favor of the defendants and prayed the court to dismiss the charges against the defendants without prejudice to the state or in other words reserves the state’s right to refile the action and prosecute the defendants but the state lawyers announced an appeal which will certainly be granted and expected to appear before the circuit court ‘A’ presided over Judge Roosevelt Willie.
In resistance, the defense lead counsel, Abrahim Sillah, informed the court that the defendants interpose no objection to the state application except that the case should and ought not to be dismissed with prejudice to the state because the state’s voluntary termination of the case comes when the defendants are yet to parade witnesses during the trial and when the prosecution was still cross examining its witnesses.
The defense lawyers argued further that ordinarily, a plea of double jeopardy will lie as a defense to a subsequent prosecution if and when it arises and not at the stage of granting a Nolle Proquoui without prejudice after trial has commenced, added that the court can only grant with reservation to refile after it has determined that jeopardy was not attached at the time of the filing of or granting of a plea of Nolle prosequoi.
According to Magistrate Jallah’s ruling, while it is true the State reserves the right to terminate the ongoing criminal prosecution of the defendants at any stage of the proceedings , there are limitations to its right to refile the same action or charge and prosecute the defendants for the same crimes or any degree thereof or for any offense based on any of the act alleged in the complaint or other charges arising from any interaction, transaction and exchange constituting parts of the common scheme or plan alleged in the complaint.
“The State’s right to reservation for refiling of the action or relitigating the matter is limited by the fact that the defendants answered the complaint and pleaded not guilty and that the state produced oral and documentary evidence against them, therefore the state’s decision to terminate the case is voluntary and not occasioned by any event of manifest necessity,” he further explained.
He maintained that the doctrine of double jeopardy, although not an issue before the court, applies to all criminal prosecution and jeopardy attaches when the accused in the case of the defendants is placed on trial before a court of competent jurisdiction under a valid complaint upon which the accused is arraigned and to which he pleads, and after the court has begun to hear evidence.
“It is therefore all too obvious that jeopardy will certainly attach should the state elect to refile this action or charge and prosecute the defendants for the same crimes or based on any of the acts alleged in the complaint or any transaction growing out of the execution and filing of the framework document of the CPP,” the court noted.
The Monrovia City Court announced its formal decision infavor of Cummings and others and to deny the state prosecutors’ request to ever refile the case thereby restoring all rights and privileges of Mr. Cummings, declared the case closed and that he will no longer be answerable to the charges of forgery and criminal conspiracy.
The court ruling on Monday, June 6, followed a press conference by Mr. Cummings defense lawyers, who described the State voluntary plead for nolle prosequi as admission of lacked of evidence to have warranted prosecution of the three officials of the ANC.
Cummings, National Chairman Daniel Naatehn and Secretary General Aloysius Toe were being tried for forgery and criminal conspiracy for alleged alterations of the framework document of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP).
ANC’s lead defense lawyer, Sillah told journalists that the criminal charges were calculated ploy by the government, using the All Liberian Party of Mr Benoni Urey and Unity Party of former Vice President Joseph Boakai to defame Mr. Cummings, break up the CPP and thwart his Presidential bid in 2023.
Sillah claimed that the conspiracy involved the six witnesses including former Vice President Boakai, who made incorrect and misleading statement without any iota of truth or evidence aimed at creating confusion and sowing seeds of discord among opposition politicians.
The ANC legal team said while he was thankful for the withdrawal of the case, he regretted that the defense team never had the opportunity to establish with rebuttal evidence, and prove that the charges were bogus intended to tarnish Mr. Cummings hard earned reputation and prevent his participation in the 2023 general elections.
When asked on the necessities of the international forensic investigation conducted by the two London based firms, Amnia and Alaco, Counsellor Sillah said the report significantly influenced the decision of the State to have dropped the charges and withdrew the case.
Sillah said the forensic investigators did a comparative analysis of the CPP framework document and established that all four constituent political parties leaders did discussed, accepted, acknowledged and approved every aspect of the CPP framework document including the amended changes by the team of lawyers.
Counsellor Sillah said had the State not voluntarily withdrawn the case, the ANC defense team had contemplated using the Amnia and Alaco forensic investigation report as evidence and also subpoena the investigators to come and testify in the case on their findings.
He however thanked the presiding Magistrate Jonah Jallah for the able manner in which he conducted the trial and his final ruling on June 6, which denied the state the right to ever refile the case.
The ANC political leader along with two party stalwarts, were charged early this year, January 9, and after nearly five months of trial, the state on June 3, voluntarily decided to withdraw the case and dropped all charges against the three ANC officials.
Court Of Non-Records Restores
Cummings’ Liberties, But…
By Grace Q. Bryant