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HomeNewsArchivesBlyden and Mark Guilty of Assault; Mark, of Racketeering

Blyden and Mark Guilty of Assault; Mark, of Racketeering

Narrowly dodging an attempted-murder conviction like a bullet in District Court Saturday, twice-convicted drug trafficker Gelean Mark and V.I. Police Sgt. Jerome Blyden were found not guilty of a crime that a jury had declared them guilty of less than 17 hours before, even as Mark was convicted of felony racketeering.

While the jury found them not guilty of trying to murder Trevor Nicholas Friday, they did find Mark and Blyden both guilty of assaulting Friday, who was shot multiple times in front of Mark’s Smith Bay pet store on May 24, 2004. According to the charge, Mark and Blyden conspired and at least one of them shot Friday because he encroached on their drug-dealing territory.

Perhaps most serious but least surprising to most observers, Mark was also convicted of a multi-layered racketeering charge under which the jury agreed that Mark ran a criminal racket engaged in gambling on illegal dog fighting and importing and distributing cocaine from 2003 to 2005.

Prosecutors would not comment Saturday or say what amount of prison time the two could face when they are sentenced in August.

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Nervously wringing his hands behind his back, Blyden squeezed his hands tightly together when the jury foreperson read the words “not guilty” to the attempted murder charge. His shoulders slackened when she read “guilty” to the assault charge.

His girlfriend held her head in her hands. His sister wept.

“Disappointed,” was all Blyden’s attorney, Treston Moore, would say about the verdict, although his client fared far better than he had at 10:30 Friday night when the jury returned with a guilty verdict on the attempted murder charge after five hours of deliberation. That decision was nullified and the jury sent back to deliberate until 1:30 a.m. Saturday when a single juror, upon an individual poll, answered “yes and no” when asked if the verdict was the jury’s unanimous one.

A wave of shock spread through the courtroom at the time. Mouths hung open. Other jurors glowered. Judge Gomez cocked his head in apparent surprise and sat in silence for a long, uncharacteristic pause.

Gomez ordered the jury to resume deliberation at 8:30 a.m. Saturday after only a few hours sleep.

The jury returned with its final verdict at about 3 p.m. Saturday. Afterward, after federal prosecutors rushed out of the courtroom without comment, Moore shook Blyden’s hand and patted him on the back, saying “Sorry, man,” as U.S. Marshals led Blyden and Mark through a doorway and out of the courtroom.

Mark Hodge, Mark’s attorney, remained alone scribbling in a notebook as the courtroom cleared.

Few words were exchanged between Hodge and Mark. At one point in the trial, Mark had fired Hodge and briefly decided to represent himself until Chief Judge Curtis Gomez talked him out of it.

Apparently speaking for both defendants, Moore said they were “certainly prepared for an appeal.”

Saturday’s anti-climactic conclusion followed an emotional Friday of testimony, legal wrangling and deliberations, the peak of which came when Blyden took the stand in his own defense.

Answering Moore’s direct questions in a soft voice, Blyden choked up and paused to regain composure as he described earning his sergeant’s rank in the VIPD. He broke down again while describing the day he received his bachelor’s degree at UVI, and then wept a third time as he recalled the evening Friday was shot.

Blyden said he had been home sick with a cold all day and went out to buy cough medicine. After parking about a block away from the Hi Ho Mart in Smith Bay Center and walking to the store, he said he saw Mark and a young woman talking outside Mark’s pet store and then saw a Honda sedan pull up near Mark.

He said two men jumped out of the Honda, one wearing all black and a mask, brandishing a pistol.

Blyden wept in the courtroom as he described running for his life, hiding behind a phone booth in his pink pajamas and counting to 20 while several shots rang out. He said he waited for a while and then, after hearing only footsteps on a nearby staircase, he bolted for his car and drove home.

Blyden, an active duty police officer at the time, did not report the incident until the next afternoon, around the same Mark reported that he had shot an unknown assailant the night before who he said he believed was going to rob him.

Blyden’s ex-wife, Tamika Monsanto, testified during the week that Blyden, whom she called Mark’s “enforcer,” rushed out of the house that night after receiving a call from Mark, with whom she said Blyden told her had had to “do a run.” She said when they returned to the house late that night, Blyden told Mark he would “take the rap.”

Friday said Blyden and Mark had arranged a meeting and shot him at close range shortly after he showed up.

That the jury found the defendants guilty of assault after at first finding them guilty of attempted murder rankled many of the federal agents who worked hard on the case and who attended the five days of testimony last week. Many left the courtroom Saturday shaking their heads.

It was unclear exactly what penalties Blyden and Mark face. Mark is waiting for sentencing on two prior convictions for drug trafficking charges, and is due back in court in two weeks to face more drug charges related to a drug case commonly known as “Red Ball II” around District Court.

Blyden and Mark are due to be sentenced in District Court at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 18.

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