Chief Justice Bryan Sykes has described it as “total rubbish”, claims made by the defense that a furniture shop owned by defendant Roel Taylor was an open space with multiple access points to the building.
Sykes made the assessment on Wednesday while finding Taylor guilty of gun charges based on the fact that he (Taylor) had a key to the said furniture shop on Jones Avenue in Spanish Town, St Catherine, where an AK-47 rifle and a magazine containing ammunition were found in June 2019.
The judge is continuing his long-running summation in the case against alleged members of the One Don faction of the Clansman gang, where 26 defendants, including the alleged gang leader Andre ‘Blackman’ Bryan and Taylor, remain on trial in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston.
A 27th defendant, Carl Beech, was freed on Tuesday of one count of being a member of a criminal organization and two counts of facilitating the commission of an applicable offense by a criminal organization.
He had also been accused of participating in the murder of a man known only as ‘Outlaw’.
While Taylor, who is a cousin of Bryan, was found guilty of illegal possession of firearms and illegal possession of ammunition, Sykes is yet to rule on whether he is also guilty of being a member of a criminal organization.
In presenting his findings relative to Taylor’s gun charges, Sykes reflected on his defense that the furniture shop had multiple points to gain access to it, due to it being an open space.
Further, the defense said several persons could access the shop, to hide any object there.
Taylor had denied claims that the firearm and ammunition that were recovered at the shop belonged to him.
But Sykes said those arguments relative to the property being an open space would not be accepted.
“What would be the point of having a key for the front and yet the back of the premises is open?” Sykes asked.
“That’s nonsense, total rubbish,” he insisted.
The judge went on to indicate that he would be accepting the evidence of the police that when they searched Taylor’s house, they found the key to the furniture shop in his bedroom.
Taylor, who has testified to being a furniture maker and not a gangster, said he was not present inside the shop while the law enforcers searched it.
However, Sykes argued that under law, there is no requirement for an accused person to be present while a search is being conducted of premises.
According to the judge, it is a matter of good practice and transparency by the police to have an individual present at a search.
Further, he said that based on the evidence, the absence of Taylor from the search of the furniture shop did not affect the credibility of the search.
Taylor’s defense attorneys rejected claims that a rifle was found in a stack of lumber in the shop.
However, Sykes said that based on the evidence that was mounted by prosecutors, he is satisfied that the rifle was, in fact, found inside the shop.
Consequently, the chief justice said Taylor was in possession of the weapon, given that he had the key to the furniture shop.
On Monday, Sykes flaunted the possibility that Bryan could be the leader of the One Don faction of the Clansman gang, based on his allegedly ordering the shooting of three men in ‘Fisheries’ and ‘New Nursery’ in Spanish Town, St Catherine in 2017.
The incident was an unindicted one.
Sykes said inference could also be drawn from the said incident that defendants Ted Prince, Jahzeel Blake, and Andre Golding are possibly members of the alleged gang.
In referencing the plans to burn down the offices of a loan company, the judge said the presence of St Thomas pastor, Stephanie ‘Mumma’ Christie, and another defendant, Fabian Johnson, at those meetings, could also implicate them in being members of the criminal organization.
The accused are being tried under the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations Act), 2014, better known as the anti-gang legislation, on an indictment containing several counts, including murder and arson.
The offenses were allegedly committed between January 1, 2015, and June 30, 2019, mainly in St Catherine, with at least one murder committed in St Andrew.