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HomeNewsArchivesDefense Rests, More Counts Dismissed in Police Corruption Case

Defense Rests, More Counts Dismissed in Police Corruption Case

Judge Curtis Gomez dismissed 10 more counts Tuesday in the indictment against V.I. police officers Enid Edwards, Francis Brooks, and Bill John-Baptiste, shortly after the defense concluded its final day of testimony in St. Thomas District Court.

As the three defendants head into the final day of proceedings on Wednesday, they face only 33 of the original 54 local and federal counts filed against them last September in relation to several incidents of alleged corruption that occurred between 2000 and 2008.

Edwards Continues Testimony
Edwards, the only one of the three defendants to take the stand during the trial, continued Tuesday to refute allegations that she conspired with Brooks to extort money from FBI informant Elias Deeb and other individuals.

In 2008 Deeb allegedly paid Edwards and Brooks $900 for a new driver’s license. The prosecution maintains that the officers demanded payment for the license in return for not reporting Deeb to immigration authorities.

The alleged cash-for-license transaction was the focus of prosecutor Kim Lindquist’s cross-examination of Edwards on Tuesday.

Lindquist replayed the undercover video tapes made by Deeb in 2008 and questioned Edwards about her role in the transaction. Edwards responded testily, claiming at various times that she didn’t recognize Brooks’ and her own voice, that she wasn’t sure of the veracity of the tapes, and that she would not answer a particular question at all.

In one crucial section of the video, Edwards is heard saying "I going to get it for you this morning," then "How much you take out?" to which Deeb replied, "I take out $400."

"Were you discussing money with Mr. Deeb?" Lindquist asked, after the video stopped playing.

Edwards started to reply that she may have been discussing money Deeb owed to Brooks in gambling debts, but Lindquist cut her off. "It’s a yes or no question," he barked. "Do not add an explanation to your reply."

Edwards eventually answered "yes," after the judge reminded her that the proper place to offer an alternate explanation for her words would be on redirect examination by her own attorney.
On redirect from her attorney, Jay Shreenath, Edwards maintained that that her words were incomplete on the tape and could be taken out of context.

"There were pieces talked about before and after that are not on the tape," she insisted.

Shreenath also gave Edwards a chance to explain why she told Deeb in a covertly recorded phone call, "Don’t talk to me about this sh*t on the phone."

She claimed that she simply meant she didn’t need to discuss the matter of a license with him, since she thought he already had one and therefore didn’t need a new one.

When Lindquist questioned Edwards about the allegations of extortion involving taxi driver Yvese Calixte, she appeared to contradict herself several times in an effort to deny her involvement.

Calixte was arrested on April 2, 2008 by John-Baptiste at the Red Hook ferry terminal for refusing to stop soliciting for fares. The prosecution charges that Edwards and Brooks then went to the Port Authority police station, where Calixte was being held, and in collusion with John-Baptiste, tried to extort $1,000 from Calixte’s boyfriend in exchange for her release.

On the stand Tuesday, Edwards could not explain why she was at the Port Authority police station. She acknowledged that her being there had nothing to do with any past contact she had had with Calixte, but denied that her presence was related to that day’s incident at Red Hook, either.

"I don’t know anything about the incident at Red Hook," she testified.

And Edwards acknowledged that she had a conversation with Calixte in which she told her to apologize to John-Baptiste, but she then testified that she didn’t know what Calixte had to apologize for.

Lindquist, noticing the pattern of conflicting testimony, lobbed one final question at Edwards: "Isn’t it true that Ms. Calixte walked away that day because she had to take care of you the same way Deeb did?"

"No," Edwards adamantly replied.

Additional Witnesses
In the final hours of the defense’s case, Shreenath continued to push back on the extortion and structuring charges against Edwards by calling two final witnesses. (The crime of structuring involves purposely arranging monetary transactions to avoid legal reporting requirements.)

Govind Chugani, a local jeweler, testified briefly about a transaction 15 years ago in which Edwards bought a gold chain and necklace from him for approximately $5,000.

Though the judge did not allow him to estimate what the jewelry would be worth now, Shreenath was clearly trying to link that purchase with two jewelry transactions Edwards made more recently.

On May 1 and 2, 2008, Edwards made two cash deposits at FirstBank, for $9,000 each. She testified on Monday that the money was from the proceeds of the sale of two items of jewelry. On Tuesday she denied that she made the deposits separately to avoid triggering the Currency Transaction Report that is required of cash deposits over $10,000.

Elias Deeb’s name came up again Tuesday when the final witness took the stand. Felix Esquierdo, a St. Thomas mechanic, was called by the defense as a character witness. He was planning to testify as to Deeb’s trustworthiness and credibility. However, after a long voir dire session to determine Esquierdo’s competency as a witness, Judge Gomez decided not allow the jury to hear his testimony.

Evidence Lacking
After the defense rested its case, Judge Gomez heard arguments for dismissal of several of the counts against the defendants. He eventually ruled that 10 should be dropped.

As he did last Friday when he dismissed 11 previous counts against the defendants, Gomez again cited Rule 29, which allows for charges to be dismissed if the evidence is not sufficient to sustain a conviction.

Nine of the counts dismissed were in relation to the 2008 transaction between Deeb, Edwards and Brooks.

Though video and audio evidence shown earlier in the trial showed Deeb engaged in some sort of transaction with Brooks and Edwards involving money and a driver’s license, Gomez ruled that the prosecution had presented no clear evidence that the officers knew that Elias Deeb was an illegal alien, or even that he was even, in fact, illegal at the time.

Though this represents another setback for the prosecution, Edwards, Brooks and John-Baptiste still face many similar charges relating to this and other incidents, including drug trafficking, conspiracy, kidnapping, assault, extortion, structuring, robbery, and bribery.

Closing arguments will start on Wednesday at 9 a.m.

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