The lawyer representing the man and woman charged with trespassing onto the property of the Community College and assaulting a student there says that the student, rather than the duo, should have been charged.
Counsel Grant Connell made the argument at the Kingstown Magistrate’s court on Friday, as he asked Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett to find his clients not guilty of the charges.
Burnett will rule on Feb. 27 on charges that on March 9, 2022, Jardel Williams, 22, of Brighton, and Tameka Phillips, 30, of Ottley Hall, did enter upon the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College in Glen, to wit its yard, with intent to commit an offence and that they assaulted Romell Gibson, an 18-year-old student, of Chester Cottage, causing actual bodily harm.
The defence’s case is that the duo went to the college to give money to Romyah Cornwall, one of Gibson’s classmates, who told the court that she is the “girlfriend” of the defendants.
The defence further argued that it was Gibson who attacked the accused, forcing them to defend themselves.
However, the prosecutor, acting Corporal of Police Corlene Samuel, asked the court to reject the defence’s case, arguing in her closing statement, “these two defendants went to the school to confront the virtual complainant about a report that was made to them.
“That was their ulterior motives on that day,” she said, referring to an allegation by Cornwall that Gibson had indecently assaulted her.
“They were angry and they went there with vengeance,” Samuel argued, saying that the defendant “took matters into their own hands” and assaulted the VC.
“At this state, he had a right to defend himself,” she said, adding, “They went there with the intention to assault and that is criminal trespass.
“Their caution statement speaks to their intention on that day. They went with the intention to hit this child,” she said, adding that although during the fracas, Williams told Phillips, “‘Let’s go. That is not what I came here for’, they were there with the intention to confront him (Gibson).
“There is enough evidence to find them guilty,” Samuel said.
Samuel noted that Gibson testified that on March 9, 2022, he had just left class at the college when the defendants approached him.
“He did not know them. He said he was approached by Williams who stood in front of him and told him to come here.”
Gibson told Williams that he (Gibson) did not know Williams and walked away, at which point Williams pushed him, telling him to stand there as he (Williams) was talking to him (Gibson).
“Phillips stepped in front and began to argue with him aggressively, saying, ‘Next time you touch my sister’ and before she could finish the statement, she started to strike him with the umbrella she had.” The prosecutor said that when Phillips did this, Williams slapped Gibson.
“He (Gibson) admitted to having brass knuckles in his pocket and he pulled them out,” Samuel said.
The prosecutor said the evidence of the auxiliary officer who was on duty at the college was that while at the booth at the gate of the campus, Williams came and she sent him to the nurse.
“At no point did she see Phillips,” Samuel said, adding that the officer testified that while there, Williams came back and told her he was going to a class and he went.
“It was not until after that she saw the other defendant,” Samuel pointed out.
She reminded the court that the dean of the college, Dwight Defreitas testified that nothing was reported about an incident involving Cornwall and Gibson before the March 9 incident that was before the court.
“He spoke of the rules of the school and the requirements when someone is making a complaint,” Samuel said of the educator, adding that the rule is that the complainant is supposed to report the matter to the office.
“The footage that was shown speaks volume,” Samuel said.
“We saw the defendant Phillips striking the VC, the school child, with her umbrella on the school compound. We saw him trying to pull his brass knuckle, trying to defend every lash she tried at him. He raised his hand, raised his foot, just fending off lashes.”
She pointed out that the medical form was submitted in evidence.
The prosecutor said that while the defence case was that the accused went to take some monies for Cornwall, they did not mention this in their statements to police on the day of the incident.
“… that incident happened on the same day, that would have been first and foremost in their minds,” the prosecutor reasons.
“What was mentioned to the police was what was reported to them and their reason for going to the school,” Samuel told the court.
“The defence claims that the virtual complainant was the aggressor — the VC who was in school on that day. And we heard the evidence, he did not know them. He knew nothing of these two defendants and that came out also in defence witness’ testimony, ‘I don’t know you.’
“All of this, they are saying a report was made to them, no one, adults, encouraged the child (Cornwall) to report a matter to the police. If a report was made, or when the report was made, it was made a day after the police arrested these two persons,” Samuel noted.
However, Connell argued that the facts are clear in this case, adding that Williams and Phillips went to the college on the day in question.
He noted that Williams testified that he arrived first and went through the COVID-19 protocols with the security and the nurse “then went around”.
The defence counsel said the crux of the matter is what transpired on the campus.
“The prosecution has swiftly crossed the hurdle of who would be the aggressor and paint the VC as a ninja,” Connell said.
“The VC is a student. The school had no extracurricular activities that involve Kungfu, punching bags, etc., but he had brass knuckles. They can be used to draw small triangles, a small ruler, but when it changed from that to be used for injury, it becomes an offensive weapon.”
Connell told the court that when the defendants went to the class and Cornwall pointed out the VC, Williams told him that Philips wanted to talk to him.
“The man whose girlfriend had reported to him that he (Gibson) had made advances to her to the point that she had to run to another class, he (Williams) approached him (Gibson) in such a calm manner that somebody who was close by could not hear what he was saying. And he (Williams) was chucked off,” Connell said.
He told the court that Phillips, who is 5 foot 2 and had an umbrella, then “interacts” with Gibson who placed the brass knuckles on his hand.
“Brass knuckles are not an invitation to have a drink or tea. It is saying, ‘If I get close to you, I will knock you out and if I hit you with these brass knuckles, your face will be severely damaged’,” the lawyer told the court.
“When he (Gibson) does that, you don’t have to wait to be struck. If you are fearful and you think you are in danger, you can strike,” Connell further said, citing the principles governing the law of self-defence.
“So, Phillips, seeing a 6-foot-2 man close to her with brass knuckles on, she took an umbrella and defended herself,” Connell said. He said that Williams, “seeing the potential danger, went to the defence of another, which, in law, is right,” Connell said.
“He saw the potential injury that could be sustained, he steps in and he give him a man hand and he back off and then says, ‘Let’s go, we did not come here for that.’”
The lawyer said that even at this point, Williams still kept his cool and was able to take Phillips “away safely and leave the man with the brass knuckles there…
“A man whose girlfriend was indecently assaulted, his (Williams’) head would be a little hot. He put a woman to deal with that.”
Connell said that the defendants were arrested and Gibson was not, adding that the defendants both told the police that they were in fear.
“He (Gibson) never said he was in fear.”
The lawyer said:
“No real man would stand up and see a man put on brass knuckles and what it can do to the face of a woman and not do anything about it.”
He said Gibson should have been charged for assaulting the defendants.
“So that means you can go to that school with these kinds of weapons and who knows, the next thing he carries to school might be a knife and when he pulls it and stabs or kills somebody, they go say ‘if we been know’, but somebody done dead.”
The lawyer said prosecution had raised the point about the defendants not going to the police regarding Cornwall’s indecent assault allegation.
“She has the evidence before her. A year after and nothing has been done,” he said, referring to the report Cornwall made after the incident involving the defendants.
“And you ask why you didn’t go to the police? The police are a waste of time sometimes.”
Connell said the prosecution has failed to prove their case.
“Their main witness, the security guard, was a colossal waste of time. An incident happens at a school for minutes and you are nowhere,” he said.