On the day that Virgin Islander Tambu Frett was scheduled to be sentenced for the charges of illegal entry, breach of curfew, and smuggling, Crown prosecutors submitted a document that his lawyer claimed incorrectly suggested that Mr. Frett was involved in a human-smuggling operation between this territory and the United States Virgin Islands.
Mr. Frett maintains that he has no relation to the evidence included in the document and denies his membership in a smuggling organisation, assertions he and his lawyer, Leroy Jones, are expected to defend in a proceeding known as a “Newton hearing” that Senior Magistrate Tamia Richards scheduled for next Thursday.
During the Newton hearing — a legal mechanism invoked by a judge to resolve factual conflicts between the defence and the prosecution — the Crown will get a chance to call as witness the police officer who gathered the evidence in the document, Ms. Richards ruled on Friday.
Mr. Jones then will be able to question the police officer, the magistrate said.
Mr. Frett was arrested on April 3 with Bryan Boland, a USVI resident, when police intercepted the two men aboard a boat Mr. Frett was navigating into the territory during the 24-hour curfew.
Ms. Richards said the 26-page document the Crown submitted contains WhatsApp messages and transcriptions of voice notes allegedly collected from Mr. Frett’s phone. This material, she explained, appears to contradict Mr. Jones’ claim during mitigation that the defendant did not receive any money for transporting Mr. Boland.
“The document appears to be saying that … contrary to your mitigation, he, Mr. Frett, is actually part of a smuggling ring,” Ms. Richards said, adding that the evidence compiled in the document suggests “the organisation and the movement of persons illegally between St. John [USVI] and the BVI.”
Mr. Jones, however, argued that the Crown had presented the document “at the 11th hour,” and he pressed the magistrate to discard it.
“The document … submitted to this honourable court by the Crown on the day of sentencing must be considered to be inadmissible,” Mr. Jones said, adding, “It must not, and it cannot, be allowed to enter into these proceedings at this stage.”
Acting Director of Public Prosecutions Tiffany Scatliffe-Esprit strongly rebuffed Mr. Jones’ efforts.
“Until the magistrate in her authority has handed a sentence down, the Crown can bring whatever is found … to the court’s attention to get the full criminality of the matter, and that is what we have done,” Ms. Scatliffe-Esprit said, adding, “Set it for Newton hearing, and that is my final position.”
Even still, Mr. Jones pushed to continue to sentencing. But Ms. Richards said in order for the matter to proceed, he would have to state for the record that his client had accepted the version of events presented by the Crown.
Mr. Jones declined.
“Occasionally, for the good of him and love, peace and happiness, he has made more than one trip, and he has never gotten any money,” the attorney said of his client, adding, “But to the best of his recollection, he has not been a human trafficker; he just has a soft heart.”
The Newton hearing is set for Thursday at 10 a.m.