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STRIDIRON: PROSECUTOR HAD NO RIGHT TO DROP CASE

Aug. 22, 2002 – Attorney General Iver Stridiron says he will take disciplinary action against one of his prosecutors for dropping charges this week against two men accused of illegal weapons possession without getting clearance from his superiors to do so.
Stridiron said he was off island on Tuesday when he got a telephone call from the chief of the V.I. Justice Department's Criminal Division tell him "that, without authority, one of my assistant attorneys general went into court and nol prossed a gun case."
Nol pros,, short for the Latin nolle prosequi, is a formal notice to the court of intention not to proceed in prosecuting a case, thereby allowing any defendants in the case to be released, Stridiron said.
The case arose from the arrest of two men last weekend near the Kirwan Terrace housing community. The two were apprehended in a vehicle that authorities suspected had been involved in random shootings in the area. When police stopped the car at a traffic checkpoint, they spotted the barrel of a military assault rifle sticking out of a plastic garbage bag in the vehicle, Stridiron said. A third man in the car fled. Deputy Police Chief Theodore Carty said on Wednesday that a search was under way for that individual.
When the case was called in Territorial Court on Tuesday, Stridion said, the prosecutor, whom he declined to name, told the judge that the Justice Department could not make its case.
"He had no authority to do so," Stridiron said. "We have a very strict policy with regard to matters pertaining to guns, and it is that I don't like guns — as the attorney general — and I have no sympathy for anyone who uses a gun to commit any crime in the Virgin Islands."
In cases involving firearms, "We will prosecute without exception," he said.
Stridiron said he has ordered the chief of the Criminal Division to re-file the case against the two men.
He said Justice Department policy spells out steps to be taken if a prosecutor feels a case is too weak to go forward or is otherwise flawed. "As I have indicated to all my lawyers, the governor of the territory expects me as the attorney general to be unyielding to those persons who are charged with committing crimes," he said. "I expect my lawyers to be as unyielding in their prosecution of those cases as I would be."

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