Magistrate Zoila Ellis-Browne is slated to rule today (Tuesday) on a no case submission by the defence in the trial of former police officer Zackrie Latham, 26, who is accused of 13 crimes in relation to the theft of guns and firearms from the Georgetown Police Station last year.
On Monday, at the Calliaqua Magistrate’s Court, defence Counsel Grant Connell argued that the prosecution had not made out a case for his client to answer on any of the charges.
However, prosecutor Crown Counsel Maria Jackson-Richards argued that the alleged crimes were part of a joint enterprise and Latham “was the mastermind of the whole operation” and should be made to answer to the charges.
The submissions after the testimony of the investigator Assistant Superintendent of Police Oswin Elgin Richards, whose testimony was intermixed with that of detective Sergeant Syon Shoy, an information technology specialist, who testified remotely from Regional Security Services in Barbados, to which he has been seconded.
Shoy conducted a forensic analysis of a cellular phone that investigators say Latham handed over to them.
Latham, of New Grounds, is being tried on charges of official corruption, burglary, sale of firearms without a dealer’s licence, sale of ammunition without a dealer’s licence, possession of a firearm without a licence, possession of ammunition without a licence, possession of a prohibited weapon without authorisation of the minister, and possession of criminal property.
On some of the counts, Latham had been jointly charged with Avi King, 26, and on others with King and Meshach Dublin, 26, of Diamonds. Both King and Dublin pleaded guilty to the majority of the charges against them and the others were withdrawn and they are serving prison terms.
Myron Samuel, 28, of Layou was also jailed for possession of a firearm and 14 rounds of ammunition stolen from the police station, but was released on compassionate grounds after three months.
Connell addressed the charges individually in his submission on Monday.
Regarding the four charges that between June 1 and 18, at Georgetown, Latham had in his possession: one M-4 rifle, serial number W877775, a prohibited weapon, without the authorisation of the minister and Glock pistols, serial numbers LNL151, LNL144, and LNL155, without a licence issued under the Firearms Act, Connell said possession speaks of custody, control and knowledge.
He said there was no evidence at all that Latham had these firearms in his possession, as defined by law.
The lawyer said that his submission on the counts in relation to the firearm is based on the premise that the station diary, which speaks to the handing over of the station from Sergeant Verrol Massiah to Disraeli Lett, contains no record of the presence of these firearms in the armoury.
He noted that the disclosure he was given is June 2, 2021, and the court might have a document saying June 3.
“If it is the same page, I don’t understand how it has different dates,” Connell said.
He however, noted that Lett’s entry said he had taken over duties at the station along with five Glock pistols and two M4 rifles with 102 rounds of ammunition.
The lawyer, however, noted that no model or serial numbers were listed in the diary.
He said that even if, on June 3, when the sergeants handed over duty, any of the firearms were present at the station as the prosecution alleged, there is no prima facie evidence that Latham had custody or control of the firearms.
He said that the evidence of the prosecution was that as of June 3, the armoury was intact, adding that Richards, referencing the firearm registry, said in his evidence that up to June 3, firearms were being issued at the station.
The lawyer said that the investigation “began with note-taking/voluntary statement.
“There was nothing done after that, so it doesn’t make the defence have to refer to much. It is only the statement that is the crux in this case.
Regarding the charge of possession of an M4 rifle, Connell noted that Lett gave the serial number of the M4 a “W87775” and the firearms expert, Station Sergeant Julian Cain, testified that no two firearms have the same serial number.
“So he is charged for being in possession of ‘W877775’ and Lett, in his record, which is the official record of the station, says ‘W87775’…
“There is no evidence that any firearm was out of the armoury on the 1st, 2nd. In fact there is no evidence led when they were removed.”
On the charge that between Jan. 31 and April 1, 2021 King stole from the police station one box containing 50 rounds of .40mm ammunition, valued at EC$250, the property of the Government of SVG, Connell said the prosecution had not made out a prima facie case on this point.
“The closest thing was an amount that the prosecution said was sold and a box,” he said, adding that the calculations did not correspond with the amount it was allegedly sold for and the amount in the box.”
He said there was no evidence that anyone even looked inside the box or counted what was allegedly therein.
He further said there is no evidence that the three boxes of ammunition that Kign is alleged to have stolen existed in the armoury when the allegation was made.
Connell told the court there was no record that the armoury had any ammunition during this period.
“There is no record that even the police in Georgetown can point to to verify what was present.”
He said if this cannot be done, how could one allege what was missing.
Regarding the offences allegedly committed in Diamonds, Connell said there was no evidence that his client was in Diamonds.
“The prosecution seems to have mixed up what was recovered and created some nexus.”
Connell argued that the prosecution had not proven that his client was in possession of Glock 22 pistol, serial number LNL 155 and questioned how he was able to sell it to one Pet at Sion Hill between June 2 and 17, 2021.
The lawyer said there was no evidence from Pet to say he received the firearm from Latham or any evidence that Latham sold a Glock 22 pistol.
The lawyer argued similarly on the charges that Latham sold one magazine with 15 rounds of ammunition to Pet at Sion Hill.
“The only evidence of magazines is when magazines were shown to the accused in the interview,” Connell said. “We did not hear from Pet nor did they give an iota of evidence as to sale by Zackrie Latham to one Pet.”
Connell said the same reasoning applied to the charge that on June 17, in Kingstown, he sold a firearm to Myron Samuel.
“They never placed Zackrie in Kingstown, they never referred to a sale to Myron Samuel; Myron Samuel never came here to say that he bought, nor did they lead any evidence that Zackrie Latham sold.”
He argued that none of the elements of that charge could be proven because the prosecution had not proven that Latham was at any time in possession of the firearm.
Myron Samuel’s name never surfaced in this case, just like Pet…” COnnel said, noting that the charge said that Latham sold the firearm to Samuel.
“If that is the case, was Myron Samuel jointly charged or was before another court or took a certain plea in this nature of offence is unknown to this court? There are procedures that could have been embarked upon.”
Connell pointed out that while Latham is accused of being in possession of criminal property, to wit, EC$3,200 in cash at Diamonds, between June 2 and 18, the only evidence of any transfer of money was a video, without sound, of money being taken from Latham at Calliaqua and counted.
The lawyer noted that the money amounted to EC$2,220.
“There was never any possession of Zackrie Latham of any EC$3200 in cash, which he knew or suspected in whole or in part directly or indirectly represents the proceeds of criminal conduct.
“The only money that we were led to believe exists, by the prosecution, was an amount recovered in a car that was parked at Calliaqua and they removed it when the defendant was in handcuffs. The prosecutor did not speak to it, there were no amendments made. Therefore, I submit they have not made out a prima facie case.”
Regarding the corruption charge, Connell asked what corrupt property his client was alleged to have received.
He asked whether that was a link to the cash recovered.
“Because there is no other evidence of any other property of the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the firearm or ammunition, that Zackrie Latham allegedly received.”
Connell said that if the prosecution was making a nexus between the money that Richards said he received and had tendered in court, “it cannot be one and the same…
“There is no evidence before the court of any sale of any firearms. The prosecution is asking the court to fill in the blanks, to complete the picture that they try to paint. But it has so many gaping holes that the court, although it look at the plums and the duffs, if even if they are to take all the plums of the prosecution’s case and put it in, it will not have to effect of the weight that they must have on that scale to make out a weight that equates to a prima facie case in this case.”
He said no amendments were made to the charges and all of the exhibits are before the court.
Connell said that of the WhatsApp messages presented to the court, three were unsent.
“The only mention of Myron, Pet and others is on paper. That’s now how it is done. The court cannot look at the charges and make out a prima facie case for prosecution. I humbly submit that this case must come to a grinding halt on every single charge.”
Prosecution argues joint enterprise
However, the prosecutor submitted that a prima facie case had been made out and Latham ought to answer the charges.
Jackson-Richards said that the prosecution case is joint enterprise in that “Latham and others were involved in a burglary at the armoury of Georgetown Police Station and stole three Glock pistols – “LNL 151, LNL 155, and LNL 144 and an M4 rifle, serial number W87775.
“In addition, ammunition — .40 mm and 5.25 for the M4 rifle — were stolen.”
The prosecutor noted that possession has a mental element and a physical element.
The physical element of possession is that the defendant has a thing or it is subject to his control or the thing could be in the custody of another, she said.
“We submit that the items stolen were always in the custody, control of the defendant, Zackrie Latham,” Richards said.
“Zackrie Latham was the mastermind of the whole operation. He had a crowbar ready to break into this armoury. We saw images of where the strip was removed from the frame. We know that Zackrie Latham was a police officer at that station. We have evidence that Zackrie Latham would have been (sic) station orderly several nights and whilst on duty in that particular role used the opportunity to enter the armoury. By his own words, he used a knife.”
She said there is also evidence that Latham texted King “informing him that everybody is asleep, come call the shot”.
The prosecutor further told the court that there is evidence that King went to the Georgetown Police Station upon Latham’s invitation.
“The defendant, in his electronic interview, stated that he tried to open the door. He tried it to see if it was locked and it was open. And, according to him, he pointed out the door to Avi King … then he went back to his room.
“It is our submission that even if that were the case, the defendant, being a police stationed at that station, pointing out the armoury to Avi King, knowing what was in the armoury — ammunition and weapons — he would have been exercising custody and control.”
Jackson-Richards said that when the items were in King’s possession and being sold, Latham was in possession, based on the forensic report on the cellular phone.
She said that based on Latham’s own admission, when PC Horne informed him that the armoury was burglarised, he (Latham) deleted messages from his phone.
“He would have (sic) received money from Avi King in relation to the sale of one of the weapons, a Glock,” Jackson-Richards said.
She told the court that Latham left the Calliaqua Police Station and he went to Diamonds to collect money in relation to the sale of that particular weapon.
“There was an agreement that whatever money was received from the sale of these weapons and ammunition was to be shared, according to Mr. Latham, in the interview, half-half.
The prosecution said that in the discussion between King and Latham about the price of the M4 rifle, “According to him, he was supposed to get half, Avi was supposed to get half.”
Addressing the individual charges, Jackson-Richards said that the prosecution’s case is that the armoury was burglarised between June 2 and 3, so dating the charge one day before covers the period.
She said the Glock 22 pistol LNL 144 was under the custody and control of Mr. Latham and in the same time period, he was in possession of LNL 151.
“Even if this was in Avi King’s possession physically, the prosecution’s case is that it was a joint enterprise. There was an agreement; Mr. Latham still exercised control.”
She extended the same argument to Glock pistol LNL 155 and the M4 rifle.
Jackson Richards said that in the electronic interview, Latham admitted to stealing a box of ammunition from the armoury, when it was located in ASP Francois’ office.
Jackson-Richards said that Latham also stated in the interview that on another occasion he stole three boxes of ammunition from the armoury.
The prosecutor said that on both occasions, Latham was a trespasser as he said he used a knife to open the armoury.
“On those two charges, the prosecution says, again, that a prima facie case was made out.”
She said that 305 rounds of ammunition were recovered from the Ferguses, having been stolen from the station between June 2 and 3.
“Mr. Latham would have had knowledge… It is the prosecution case that even while these ammunition were out of the jurisdiction of the armoury and out on the street, Mr. Latham would have had custody. It is our case that Mr. Latham would have known about all the movements regarding all the weapons and ammunition.”
Concerning the charges of sale of ammunition and weapon, Jackson-Richards said it is the prosecution’s case that even if Latham was not the one who handed the items to Pet and received the proceeds, based on the fact that it was a joint enterprise, Latham was part and parcel of the transaction.
The prosecution put forward a similar argument regarding the sale of Glock pistol LNL 144 and the magazine with 15 rounds of .40 mm ammunition to Myron Samuel.
Regarding possession of criminal property, to wit, EC$3,200 in cash that Latham is alleged to have had in his possession, the prosecution’s case is that Latham handed over to Richards money, which, by Latham’s admission, was derived from the sale of a Glock pistol.
She said he also admitted to receiving EC$500 from the sale of ammunition
“In light of the evidence that is before the court, the prosecution respectfully submits that this was a case of joint enterprise. An agreement was made by the parties and it was executed regardless to what role any person played, whether he was the one who went into the armoury, of if he was the one selling, or if he was the lookout man or whatever, it is our case that Mr. Latham must answer to the charges because a prima facie case is made out against him.”
Latham is charged, that:
1. between Jan. 31 and April 1, 2021, at Georgetown, he entered the armoury of the Georgetown Police Station as a trespasser and stole one box containing 50 rounds of .40mm ammunition, valued at EC$250, the property of the Government of SVG;
2. between Jan. 31 and June 17, 2021, at Georgetown, being employed in the government service as a member of the Royal SVG Police Force and being charged with the performance of duties by virtue of his employment, corruptly received property for himself on account of an action done by you in discharge of the duties of his office;
3. between Jan. 31 and April, 1, 2021, at Georgetown, entered the armoury of the Georgetown Police Station as a trespasser and stole three boxes containing 250 rounds of .40mm ammunition, the property of the Government of SVG.
4. between June 2 and 18, 2021, at Diamonds, he had in his possession criminal property, to wit, EC$3,200 in cash, which he knew or suspected in whole or in part directly or indirectly represents the proceed of criminal conduct;
5. on June 17, at Diamonds, he had in their possession 305 rounds of ammunition without a licence issued under the Firearms Act;
6. between June 2 and 17, 2021, at Sion Hill, not being a licenced firearm dealer, he sold one Glock 22 pistol, serial number LNL 155 to one “Pet”, of Sion Hill;
7. between June 2 and 17, 2021, at Sion Hill, not being a licensed firearm dealer, he sold one magazine with 15 rounds of .40mm ammunition to one “Pet”, of Sion Hill;
8. on June 17, 2021, at Kingstown, not being a licensed firearm dealer, he sold one Glock 22 pistol, serial number LNL 144 to Myron Samuel, of Layou;
9. on June 17, 2021, at Kingstown, not being a licensed firearm dealer, sold one magazine with 15 rounds of .40mm ammunition to Myron Samuel, of Layou;
10. between June 1 and 4, 2021, at Georgetown, he had in his possession, one M-4 rifle, serial number W877775, a prohibited weapon, without the authorisation of the minister;
11. between June 1 and 18, 2021, at Georgetown, he had in his possession one Glock pistol, serial number LNL151, without a licence issued under the Firearms Act;
12. between June 1 and 28, 2021, at Georgetown, he had in his possession, one Glock pistol, serial number LNL144, without a licence issued under the Firearms Act; and,
13. between June 1 and June 18, 2021, at Georgetown, he had in his possession one Glock 22 pistol, serial number LNL155, without a licence issued under the Firearms Act.