Thursday morning in Magistrates’ Court, attorney Leroy Jones insisted that his client Tambu Frett smuggled United States Virgin Islands citizen Bryan Boland into the territory as an act of kindness.
The Crown, however, alleges that Mr. Frett smuggled him as part of his involvement in a human-smuggling organisation, pointing to a document allegedly containing incriminating WhatsApp messages and voice recordings as evidence.
Mr. Jones made his case on the first day of a Newton hearing, which Senior Magistrate Tamia Richards described last week as “a trial within a trial” that is meant to resolve factual discrepancies between the prosecution and the defence. In this case, the debated facts involve whether or not Mr. Frett received compensation for smuggling Mr. Boland and whether or not he belongs to a human-smuggling organisation.
Ultimately, Ms. Richards ruled that the audio recordings will be played in court when the hearing resumes May 13, explaining that this is the only way to settle this dispute.
Mr. Frett was arrested on April 3 when he and Mr. Boland were apprehended by police while piloting a boat into the territory during the curfew in place at the time.
Court via Zoom
Appearing before the Magistrates’ Court via Zoom, Mr. Jones maintained that it would be unfair for the materials obtained by the Crown to affect his client’s verdict, as they were introduced after Mr. Frett had pleaded guilty to all three charges he faces: smuggling, illegal entry and breach of curfew.
If the Crown does introduce the document containing alleged evidence of Mr. Frett’s involvement in a human-smuggling enterprise, “We will consider it to be prejudicial, manifestly biased, unfair,” Mr. Jones said.
The attorney also said he had already listened to the recordings, and that he never heard Mr. Frett ask Mr. Boland for financial compensation for bringing him into the territory.
Ms. Richards responded, “Just as you have had the opportunity to hear [the recordings] with your own ears, why should the sentencing court similarly not have the opportunity to hear that evidence with its own ears?”
She added, “The court will determine who it believes, and if the facts go in favour of the defendant, then he gets that benefit.”
Crown Counsel O’Neal Simpson, who stood in for acting Director of Public Prosecutions Tiffany Scatliffe-Esprit, pushed back against Mr. Jones’ assertion that it was improper for the Crown to submit these materials after Mr. Frett’s guilty pleas.
“Disclosure is an ongoing obligation of the Crown,” Mr. Simpson said. “Therefore, the points at which the Crown is placed in receipt of information it wishes to [place] before the court is an ongoing and fluid process.”
He added, “My learned friend’s representation, therefore, that the Crown has in some way, shape or form sprung this matter upon him … is both discourteous to the Crown and misreading of the point of note.”