On Tuesday, Crown Counsel Kael London, who is prosecuting four men charged with importing and intending to sell more than 307 kilograms of cocaine, called his last witness to the stand.
But just as they had over the past week of witness testimony and cross-examination, defence attorneys registered frequent objections and aggressively cross-examined the witnesses, sometimes asserting that the police who had arrested the accused hadn’t followed proper procedure.
Mr. London closed his portion of the trial on Tuesday by asking Ron Augustine, the investigating police officer assigned to the case, to detail his recollection of the day of the arrests and the ensuing investigation.
Mr. London also asked Mr. Augustine whether he recognised some of the items featured in photographs previously tendered into evidence.
Mr. Augustine identified photographs of the suspected cocaine handed over by the United States Coast Guard, and the interior and exterior of the boat the four accused were allegedly onboard before running aground.
In response to questions from Mr. London, Mr. Augustine recalled travelling on Oct. 27, 2019, from the police marine base at Road Reef to the Gun Creek dock at Virgin Gorda, where he was met by Javier Smith, a police officer then attached to the Police Marine Unit.
Mr. Augustine later observed that Mr. Smith and other officers had four men in custody, he told the court.
The officer told the detained men that he would be “investigating the matter,” and he cautioned them but they made no reply, he said.
Mr. Augustine added that the defendants were wet and had sand on their body and clothes.
He said he then invited Nickel Simon, who Mr. Augustine identified as the captain of the boat that officers had allegedly chased onto the shore near North Sound,to accompany him as he searched the beached vessel.
Messrs. Augustine and Simon then walked to the beach, where Police Constable Llewelyn Olivierre was securing the boat, and Mr. Augustine proceeded to search the vessel in the presence of Mr. Simon, finding only a pair of brown slippers that the defendant identified as his, Mr. Augustine claimed.
After transporting the four accused to the Road Town Police Station, where recorded interviews were conducted and CDs of the recordings were signed by the officers and defendants, defendant Cryton Browne requested clothes from his hotel room in Stanley Villas in Cane Garden Bay, Mr. Augustine testified.
Using a key that police had previously found on Mr. Browne’s person, Mr. Augustine and other officers entered his villa, where they did not find anything illegal but recovered vacuum sealed bags, a vacuum sealing machine, and a money counter, Mr. Augustine claimed.
On Tuesday, when it was his turn to cross-examine Mr. Augustine, attorney Jason Hamilton, who represented Mr. Simon, suggested that the officer had not followed proper conduct during the arrest and investigations, echoing other arguments he had put to previous law enforcement officers on the stand.
Early in his cross-examination of Mr. Augustine, Mr. Hamilton asked if he had taken photos of the defendants’ apparently wet clothes.
Mr. Augustine responded that he had taken photos of Mr. Simon, but those photos were saved to his phone, which had since been destroyed.
Mr. Augustine also responded in the negative when asked by Mr. Hamilton if he included photos of Mr. Simon’s clothes in the case file he prepared.
“I want to put it to you that you were lying when you said you saw them wet,” Mr. Hamilton said to Mr. Augustine.“No, your honour,” Mr. Augustine replied.
Mr. Hamilton also pointed out that while Mr. Augustine told the court that he cautioned Mr. Simon before asking if he was the captain of the boat, he made no mention of this in his statement.
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Mr. Augustine also responded in the negative when asked if the custody log indicated that Mr. Simon had spoken to a lawyer of his choosing.
“I want to put it to you that you do not understand police procedure,” Mr. Hamilton said to Mr. Augustine.
“I understand, your honour,” Mr. Augustine replied.
Whether or not Mr. Browne was properly afforded the right to a lawyer has also been a key sticking point of his attorney, Chesley Hamilton, who has objected to attempts by Mr. London to tender a transcript of Mr. Hamilton’s interview into evidence.
Along with Messrs. Simon and Browne, Venezuelans Wilfredo Jose Lopez Vargas and Hober Efren Morillo Ybarbia are charged with importation of a controlled drug and possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply.
Messrs. Vargas and Ybarbia are also charged with illegal entry.