By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
FORMER Free National Movement) Senator John Bostwick II yesterday contended that the criminal case against him was a “vicious and diabolical” plan to tarnish his character and reputation.
The 43-year-old lawyer was moved to tears during sworn testimony before Magistrate Andrew Forbes where he spent nearly two hours recalling the events that led up to the alleged discovery of ten rounds of ammunition in his backpack at the Grand Bahama International Airport (GBIA).
Airport security allegedly discovered the ammunition during a check at the domestic section of the GBIA on May 17, 2014.
“I think I said to them ‘My God I’ve been set up!’ That’s still my thought,” Bostwick II said on the witness stand.
His attorney Lisa Bostwick-Dean asked if he recalled the events of that day prior to the discovery.
“That day I was scheduled to attend a wedding back in Freeport,” Bostwick II said.
He noted that he had barely slept the evening before due to complex cases he had been working on and his teenage son had been suffering from a stomach virus.
“He and I left the house where I got to the airport. We were due to meet his mother and his aunt but they weren’t there. She wasn’t feeling well and I thought she may have caught the virus as well,” the former senator said.
“Though we were scheduled for the first flight, we missed it but caught the second one,” he said.
He told the court he was the best man in the wedding that was held at the Our Lucaya Resort.
“Did you carry anything with you?” his lawyer asked.
“I carried my one backpack. It’s very much my briefcase,” the accused said.
“Did you put anything in that bag?” the lawyer asked.
“A few incidentals,” he answered.
“Did you take that bag with you to the airport?” Mrs Bostwick-Dean asked.
The accused said he did and 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.
He said when he arrived at the airport in Grand Bahama, he was approached by individuals and started talking to them.
Mrs Bostwick-Dean asked where the bag was during the time he spent conversing with individuals who had approached him. Bostwick II said the backpack was between his shoulder and the ground.
He said it took his party a while to find a rental company that had an available car and also would accept an American Express card.
From the airport, he and the others proceeded to the hotel where he parked the car at the front. He was told that he could not do so but had access to free valet parking which he accepted.
The accused said he was not given room keys for the suite that the groom, Christopher Wells, and others were staying in. When he got to the room, he and those with him exchanged “greetings” before “I rested my bag on the floor and immediately started to change.”
Bostwick II said they were all in a rush to get to the 10am ceremony.
“I left my bag. Everybody left their bags in the room,” he added.
After the wedding ceremony, the bridal party photo session, and the reception, he said: “I walked with the groom back to the room and we were a little shocked that the room door was propped wide open.”
The accused said he saw two persons “who appeared to be cleaning staff” in the room and they were asked why they were there.
“They indicated that the room had to be turned over to the next guests,” Bostwick II said.
The maids, he added, only left the corridor but didn’t go much further as he, the groom, his son’s mother and aunt tried to change, collect their belongings and go to the honeymoon suite.
Upon leaving the hotel, the group took a detour to see Mr Wells’ soon-to-be new home before proceeding to the airport to catch their evening flight.
Bostwick II said when he got to the airport, he was approached by people who said “they were excited to meet the future prime minister”.
He added: “I was a little blown away. It was a strange experience.”
The accused said he proceeded through security screening after placing his backpack on the conveyor belt. The security screener asked for the owner of the bag to identify themselves, which he did. A second security personnel was instructed by the screener to inspect the bag, which she did twice “but didn’t find anything untoward”.
“I said what’s the problem? And the screener told the woman at the counter to look in the front pocket of the bag. To my continued, absolute horror and dismay, she pulled out a magazine clip with bullets,” Bostwick II said.
“I asked her ‘What is that?’ She asked me the same and I said ‘I don’t know.’ I was (kind of) blown away. I didn’t know what to say.”
“Did you know that item was in your bag?” his lawyer asked.
The former senator said “no” and explained that the part where the magazine clip was found had long been damaged before that day.
“But the discovery was a feeling of total and absolute disbelief. Shock is too simple a word,” the former senator said.
Bostwick II said he thought it strange that the security officer phoned the police but then proceeded to put the items back in the bag. He was eventually taken into custody for questioning.
The accused said he felt nauseous and traumatised, having found himself in such a position despite no prior brushes with the law.
He said his experience in police custody was not any better as he was not given food for the entire weekend and was confined to a small concrete cell.
“I went from being grossly offended to being grossly violated as I was flown to Nassau.”
Bostwick II also claimed that upon his arrival in Nassau, the lead investigator in his case, Supt Ken Strachan, said he would be made an example of.
“I told him I’d been repeatedly warned that there are those in this country that were that vicious and that diabolical,” Bostwick II said.
The former senator said a “three-car convoy” took him from the Central Detective unit to Magistrate’s Court for his arraignment.
“Honest to God, the officer sitting next to me called someone saying we were en route. I wasn’t shocked when I saw the full press contingency to capture the moment,” Bostwick II said.
During cross-examination by police prosecutor Supt Ercell Dorsett, the accused denied the suggestion that Supt Strachan did not say he would be made an example of.
“No such thing was put to Officer Strachan that he said those things when questioned by your lawyers,” the prosecutor further suggested.
The accused said he did not recall.
Supt Dorsett asked the accused if he was mistaken when he told police that he had left his backpack in the rental car’s trunk and not in the room as he was now telling the court.
Bostwick II agreed that he was.
“How many persons were in that room?” the prosecutor asked.
The accused said: “Eight or nine, add or subtract the number of persons coming in and out of the room.”
“Did you know all of those persons with the groom’s party?” Supt Dorsett asked.
“The only one I didn’t know was the Canadian,” Bostwick II said.
He told the court he felt safe leaving his bag in the room but was “slightly” suspicious about the maids he saw in the room.
“Did you check your bag to see if everything was in place given your suspicions?” the prosecutor asked.
“No, I didn’t,” the accused said.
Under questioning from the prosecutor, he denied that he put the magazine clip and ammunition in his bag nor did not he see airport security staff put the items in there either.
He also said he did not make a complaint with the hotel’s security about the housekeeping staff being in his room.