By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A MAGISTRATE yesterday rejected the argument from former Senator John Bostwick II that he was set up when a loaded magazine clip was discovered in his backpack at an airport 18 months ago and convicted him of possession of ammunition.
However, the former Free National Movement election candidate remains on bail until his sentencing hearing next month. He faces up to seven years in prison.
The 43-year-old attorney and his lawyers, John Bostwick Senior and Lisa Bostwick-Dean, appeared before Magistrate Andrew Forbes for a ruling concerning allegations that Bostwick II was found in possession of 10 live rounds of ammunition at the Grand Bahama International Airport in May 2014.
Airport security allegedly discovered a quantity of ammunition in the former senator’s luggage during a check while in the domestic section of the airport.
Bostwick II had maintained his innocence and claimed he was set up.
However, Magistrate Forbes said yesterday that he was not convinced by Bostwick’s claim and highlighted inconsistencies in the former senator’s account.
“What is telling is when interviewed by Supt (Kent) Strachan, the defendant repeated that he left the bag in the trunk of the car at the hotel and it is observed by this court, being specific to the extent, he sought to give descriptions of the bellman who parked his vehicle. He was repeatedly asked and he repeatedly confirmed that he left the bag in the car.”
However, surveillance footage produced at trial showed that the accused did not leave the bag in the rental car as initially claimed.
“The court notes the defendant had urged that he was experiencing shock and exhaustion during his interview in Grand Bahama,” the judge added.
However, the judge said Bostwick II was aided by an “extremely competent and knowledgeable attorney of some seniority who himself spoke for him (the accused) during the interview.”
The magistrate said the record of interview was the accused’s available opportunity to “cast his net wider” on a list of possible persons who may have sabotaged him.
“The court finds that portion of the defendant’s testimony to cast a wide net to explain the ammunition unconvincing and unbelievable,” Magistrate Forbes said in rejecting the explanation.
The court took into consideration the former senator’s conduct during the initial stage of the matter and his conduct on the witness stand, and determined that “evidence is a consciousness from which this court can infer knowledge.”
Magistrate Forbes said that the court “is satisfied the prosecution has proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt” and convicted Bostwick II of possession of ammunition.
He returns to Magistrate’s Court on January 22, 2016 for sentencing.
In September, the magistrate called on Bostwick II to respond to the allegations after determining that the prosecution had made out a sufficient case.
Bostwick II waived his right to remain silent and gave sworn testimony in November. He contended that the criminal case against him was a “vicious and diabolical” plan to tarnish his character and reputation.
The accused said he went through the security checkpoints at the Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau without any incident before proceeding to the departure lounge to await the flight to Grand Bahama.
He said while attending a wedding held at a resort on the island, he left his backpack unattended in the groom’s room and at other points during the trip.
When his bag went through the security screener for his return flight and the ammunition was allegedly discovered in his pack, he said he felt as though he was “set up.”
Yesterday, when reading his ruling into the record, the magistrate noted that “this court sits both as the trier of fact and the law and suffice to say, the lack of fingerprint evidence does not mean there was not possession.”
“The size of the .22 rounds of ammunition were so small it was impractical if not impossible to lift a fingerprint from the surface,” the magistrate added.
The court further noted that the type of metal and components of a firearm, in this instance the bullets, have a special type of oil on them that may or may not leave markings when coming into contact with various materials.
“Given those facts known to this court, it is not moved by that argument,” the magistrate said, further adding that the other argument concerning the chain of custody of the ammunition “is unremarkable and again not relevant in this matter.”
“The singular issue as this court sees fit is whether the defendant had the knowledge of the item found in the backpack,” Magistrate Forbes stressed.
“The defendant initially indicated that the bag was left in the vehicle when he arrived at the hotel. However, when confronted with surveillance footage, the defendant, under oath, admitted the state of exhaustion he was in and a result he misspoke.
“He then recalled taking the bag with him but more importantly before being at the airport in Grand Bahama, leaving the bag unattended as he attempted to find the rental car company, or when greeting well-wishers thus implying that persons may have interfered with the bag at that time.”
“The account of the room at the hotel being chaotic with persons in and out then implied that any number of those persons could have interfered with the bag. Each and every member of the bridal party who had access to that room – including his son, the son’s mother, Christopher Wells, Yolanda Pawar-Bain, Donovan Higgs – have been excluded by the defendant as they denied interfering with the bag. But it can be inferred no suspicion ought to be directed at them either.”
“Then there are the unsupervised maids present in the room upon the return of Pawar-Bain and her sister. How long they were there unsupervised was unclear but they had opportunity according to the defendant.”
The magistrate also highlighted that the accused, from his own testimony, left his bag unattended in the rental car when visiting the new home of the groom and again at the airport where he was interacting with well wishers and suggested that these opportunities could have also been used to plant the ammunition.
“And finally the (security) screener herself, it was suggested, could have tampered with the bag. It is noted that all of these potential persons were in court when the defendant gave his evidence under oath. At no other point was any of this even remotely suggested by the defendant,” the judge said.
Magistrate Forbes said Bostwick II initially suggested the bellman who parked the rental car may have planted the loaded clip, “but that has now fallen away.”
He added that Bostwick’s belief as to why he was allegedly set up “was never explained.”
“If that is the mindset of the defendant, then the defendant by his own admission was negligent when he left his property unattended and never insured its security. Further, while acknowledging that the maids had potential access to his bag, he responded, ‘I was not concerned as there’s nothing valuable.’”
“It was not an issue of value but rather a question of security. If that was a manifest concern, it would have behooved the defendant to then check to insure that his property was as he left it,” the magistrate stressed.
“At no point did the defendant demonstrate any attempts to be proactive. It is only when confronted by the reality of these proceedings the court now hears about others.”