By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
HUMAN rights activist Rodney Moncur has been charged with “committing a grossly indecent act” by posting a picture of a man who died in police custody on his Facebook page.
Mr Moncur opted to be tried by a jury in the Supreme Court rather than a Magistrate yesterday, before being remanded into custody as he was unable to post the $7,500 bail.
While being escorted to the Nassau Street Magistrate’s Court complex to be formally charged, Mr Moncur alleged that he would be killed before his trial.
“Mark my words, April 4, they are going to kill me,” he said while entering court, screaming: “Freedom!”
Moncur, a 56-year-old Market Street resident and former DNA candidate for Bain and Grants Town, returns before Deputy Chief Magistrate Carolita Bethell today to learn whether police prosecutor ASP Ercel Dorsett will have the matter fast tracked to the higher court through a Voluntary Bill of Indictment or take the slower process of a pre-trial in the lower court.
• The charge and background surrounding the charge
Moncur faces a single charge of “committing a grossly indecent act”, claimed to have been committed between March 1 and March 29.
It is claimed that sometime last month, Moncur “intentionally and unlawfully” published a photograph of Jamie Smith, a deceased person.
Last Saturday morning, Moncur was arrested by police in connection with the images of Smith, who died in police custody last month.
• The Arraignment
Yesterday, around 10am, Moncur repeatedly cried out “Freedom!” as he was led to court to be charged.
As he entered the court complex, he shouted to the crowd gathered on South Street, “Mark my words, April 4 they are going to kill me!”
His arraignment before Deputy Chief Magistrate Bethell did not take place until 1pm.
Earlier, The Tribune had spoken with Halson Moultrie, the lawyer selected to appear for Moncur during the arraignment.
Mr Moultrie said he had not been allowed to see Moncur while he was in police custody, nor was he able to see his client in the court complex until minutes before the arraignment took place.
In the courtroom, Moncur said he would be representing himself.
He also claimed his arraignment before that particular magistrate constituted a conflict of interest, as her husband is representing Atlantis in a lawsuit against him.
Magistrate Bethell said she was only arraigning him, not trying him, and told Moncur: “If you do not control yourself, you will be removed from this courtroom on another charge.
“Now conduct yourself in my courtroom, properly, do you understand?” she asked
“Most obliged your worship,” Moncur answered.
“This is a court of law, not a political arena,” she informed him.
The charge and the particulars were then read to Moncur. The magistrate asked where he wished to be tried.
“Supreme Court,” he answered.
“No need to shout,” Deputy Chief Magistrate Bethell told him.
“That’s the way I speak, your worship,” he answered, but apologised nonetheless.
The magistrate asked the police prosecutor if he was in a position to say what the Crown would do.
ASP Dorsett said he could have a report in that regard ready by 2pm today.
• Issue of bail
When asked by the magistrate if there was any objection to bail, the prosecutor said there was no objection to Moncur being granted a bond pending trial.
“Mr Moncur do you have any previous convictions?” the magistrate asked for the record.
“Your worship, I am a Justice of the Peace in the district of New Providence. I have no previous convictions,” he answered.
“Very well. And what do you do for a living?” she asked.
“I do JP work and I’m a taxi cab driver. And I’m also a consultant on human rights issues,” he said.
The magistrate granted him $7,500 bail with one or two sureties.
“Do you require any reporting conditions?” the magistrate asked the prosecutor.
“No, your worship,” ASP Dorsett answered.
After telling Moncur that the matter was adjourned to 2pm the following day, when the prosecution would inform the court of its course of action, she told him he would be released to the custody of the person who posts his bail.
He asked if he could “advance” an argument on the bail.
Moncur said $7,500 would be hard to come by “in these economic times.”
“I’m not asking you to lodge the money,” she said, adding that he could have a suretor put up a job letter.
“The person that I rely on is my wife,” Moncur said.
“She does not have assets to cover $7,500?” the magistrate asked.
“No. She works for me for the slave wage of $100 per week. And it means that she would not be able. I don’t want her to come and mislead the court over this letter,” he said.
He suggested that he be granted self-signed bail.
“I’m a well known citizen. The police have not accused me of any criminal activities and in view of the fact that I’m a JP, a well-known citizen whom the police was able to find this morning when they came, and cut off my light and terrorised me, I ask the court to give me personal bail,” he said.
“I will not be giving you personal bail,” the magistrate said, but added that she could adjust the suretors to three if necessary so that he could be able to post bail.
“I’ll have to go to prison,” Mr Moncur said.
Deputy Magistrate Bethell responded that in that case, she would see him at 2pm the next day.
“God save the Queen,” said Moncur as he left the courtroom.
• Call for Moncur’s immediate release
Mervin Darling, a political follower and friend of Moncur, was in court during the arraignment and spoke to the press afterwards, calling for the immediate release of the human rights activist.
Darling claimed that “injustice has just reached a high level today” after Moncur, in his view was given a very stiff bail of $7,500 and denied bail of self-recognizance, a man “well established.”
“So Mr Moncur today will be spending the hard night under the protective care at Her Majesty’s Prison. Today is… it’s a darkest hour,” he said.
Felix Bethel, an associate professor at the College of the Bahamas and friend of Moncur, called on the appropriate powers to review the matter immediately, joining other Bahamians who are in support of Moncur.
“I believe the charge against him is unfortunate. I believe Mr Moncur is being victimized and I wish for the matter to be reviewed by the appropriate powers,” he said.
He further called on the Commissioner of Police to swiftly assist with the immediate release of Moncur from remand due to Moncur being “diabetic and hypertensive.”