By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
JEAN Paul Michelsen was acquitted of stealing more than $150,000 from a customer to whom he was contracted to supply air conditioning units.
The chief operating officer of Stellar Energy’s proposed waste-to-energy plant appeared before Magistrate Guilimina Archer yesterday for a decision in his first of two trials on stealing by reason of service.
The magistrate said the court had “reviewed and considered the evidence in its entirety” and could not rule in the affirmative that Michelson dishonestly misappropriated the $161,790 belonging to Carlton Wilkinson between January 24 and May 1, 2012.
The magistrate added that the onus is on the prosecution, who closed its case after calling two witnesses, to satisfy the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt.
“And the law says whenever there is some doubt, whether great or small, the decision must always be exercised in favour of the defendant,” the magistrate said.
According to the evidence of the complainant, $153,640 was given to Michelsen in two cheque payments on January 24 in the amount of $118,000 plus and another $42,000 plus on May 1.
The payments were made to purchase Mitsubishi A/C unit and supplies through the defendant’s company at the time, Bahamas Energy Solutions Ltd, and were intended for use by the complainant for a project on Harbour Island.
However, only $8,000 plus were returned to the complainant and none of the equipment delivered as contracted.
Michelson, in his sworn defence, said an order was made to the supplier, paid in full and delivered to a location in the United States in a storage unit until the complainant’s need for the goods.
The defendant claimed he had no further dealing with the order and that it was his former business partner who removed the equipment from the Florida address during the period of their dispute that ultimately led to the closure of BES Ltd.
The court noted that this was not rebutted by the prosecution and that the complainant, in cross-examination, confirmed receiving confirmation of the payment and shipping information.
The magistrate referred to Chapter 84, section 46 of the Penal Code which states that “a person is guilty of stealing if he dishonestly appropriates a thing of which he is not the owner.”
Section 49, she said, further notes that “an appropriation of a thing is dishonest if it is made by a person without claim of right, and with a knowledge or belief that the appropriation is without the consent of some person for whom he is trustee or who is owner of the thing, as the case may be, or that the appropriation would, if known to any such person, be without his consent.”
The magistrate discharged Michelson of stealing by reason of service.
“This was a matter” she added, “that ought to have been properly brought before the civil court.”
“There was no evidence of any criminal intent, which is an essential element of the offence. It seemed, on the face of it, a breach of contract. The complainants, if they feel I was wrong, they can take whatever course of action they need to.”
The ruling in his second, separate case, has been adjourned to November 26 due to outstanding stenographer notes.
Michelsen is alleged to have stolen $55,145 from L’Neil Corriveau between April 12, 2011, and April 3, 2013, for the same reason as in the previous case. Michelsen remains on $15,000 bail in the Corriveau case.