The prison officer who was, in May, detained for over 36 hours without charge over a post he allegedly made on Facebook and whom Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves reportedly later threatened with a defamation lawsuit has been arrested and charged with wounding a prisoner.
iWitness News was reliably informed that Kenson King, 33, of Park Hill, will appear in court today, Thursday, charged with wounding a prisoner.
He was arrested on Wednesday and the charges brought against him.
A source familiar with the development told iWitness News that King has not denied striking the prisoner but said that he did so in self-defence after the prisoner slapped him.
The source said the process through which the charge was brought against King raises a number of questions.
iWitness News understands that when there is an alleged misdeed by a prison officer, the prison authorities would conduct an investigation and recommend further action, if any.
However, in King’s case, iWitness News was reliably informed that a private citizen, a lawyer who is a relative of the prisoner, wrote to the police requesting an investigation.
iWitness News understands that a senior police officer conducted “an investigation” and decided to charge King, “thus bypassing the regular process”.
King, who has been a prison officer for 15 years, is a vocal critic of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and his Unity Labour Party administration.
King is a resident of North Central Windward, which the prime minister represents in Parliament.
He made headlines in May when police showed up at his workplace, Her Majesty’s Prisons in Kingstown, on May 22 and escorted him to police headquarters where he was kept in custody for more than 30 hours then released without charge.
King was arrested, reportedly in connection with a Facebook post that referred to the failure of police to act, in January, against licenced firearm holder Mitch Israel whose wife had complained to police and reported that he had threatened to use the weapon to kill her.
Israel-Taylor was shot and killed in Kingstown a few days later, on Jan. 29 and her husband has been charged with murder in connection with her death.
Noting Taylor-Israel’s death, the Facebook post that led to King’s arrest in May had further said that a politician had allegedly ordered the return of licenced firearms to a man who had threatened to kill his relatives in Park Hill.
Searchlight newspaper later reported that lawyers for Gonsalves, citing the Facebook post, had written King, demanding that he donate half of one month’s salary to the Zero Hunger Trust Fund (ZHTF) or be sued for defaming the prime minister.
The lawyers are also said to have asked the Vincentian newspaper to issue an apology and donate EC$10,000 to the ZHTF to avoid a defamation suit.
iWitness News understands that weeks after the Searchlight article was published, King had not received any communication from the prime minister or his lawyers regarding the alleged demand.
But King was back in the news again in June when he used a Youth Voices forum organised by the main opposition New Democratic Party to call on the nation’s youth to rebel against the Gonsalves-led ULP administration.
“Young people, old people, but especially the young people, Rebel. Rebel against 46% youth unemployment. Rebel against being told that the NDP has no plans and cannot do better. So stay with the devil you know. Get rid of the devil. We already see the evil of these devils… Let us exorcise them. Let us bring blessings. Dare to rebel, my people; dare to rebel,” King told the virtual forum, which was broadcast on social media and radio.
In December 2017, police took King in for questioning saying he had attempted to run the prime minister’s convoy off the road.
However, King denied being reckless in his attempt to overtake the prime minister’s two-vehicle convoy between New Grounds and Diamond on Wednesday.
He told iWitness News then that if anyone was reckless in the encounter it was the driver of the prime minister’s security escort vehicle, which he said cut him off several times when he (King) attempted to overtake after ensuring that the road ahead was clear.
Gonsalves later told the media that he was unaware, until told, of the incident. “… I don’t even know what was happening behind me,” he told a Jan. 2, 2018 press conference.