By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
WITNESSES in a voter fraud case were no shows for the trial in Magistrate’s Court yesterday.
Andrew Johnson, 57, a long serving Water and Sewerage Corporation employee, reappeared before Magistrate Samuel McKinney for the expected start of his case on the charge of making a false declaration, contrary to Section 94(a) of the Parliamentary Elections Act, Chapter 7.
However, police prosecutor Sgt Philip Davis requested an adjournment of the proceedings on the basis that the witnesses, most of whom were based in Eleuthera, were not available.
Johnson’s lawyer, Philip Hilton, protested this, however, arguing that the police took a plane to Eleuthera to bring his client back to the capital in handcuffs and to face arraignment.
He said by the same token, police should be able to use their police plane to bring the witnesses from Eleuthera.
He also argued that May 10, the date of the general election, was near and his client should not be denied his right to vote.
Mr Hilton further stressed that since Johnson’s March 29 arraignment, he had yet to receive the witness statements that make up the prosecution’s case against his client.
Magistrate McKinney inquired from the prosecutor on the latter point and Sgt Davis explained that he too was not in possession of the documents despite every effort, up to the date of trial, made to obtain the file and associated statements from the investigation unit relative to the case in question.
Sgt Davis also suggested that it may be best to transfer the case to Eleuthera for trial given the circumstances.
The magistrate, however, said it was unacceptable that nearly a month later that the prosecution was not in a position to proceed with the case brought against Johnson.
He said at the least, Parliamentary Commissioner Sherlyn Hall, who is based in Nassau, should have been present to commence the proceedings.
However, as two dates had been fixed for trial, the magistrate adjourned the matter to May 1.
Magistrate McKinney said that if the prosecution is not in a position to proceed, then it ought to take a certain course of action concerning the charge.
He also ordered that the accused’s attorney be given the statements to prepare their defence no later than April 26.
It is alleged that Johnson, between February 27 and February 28, while at Harbour Island and under oath, made a statement before Revising Officer Lucy Butler for the purpose of registering to vote knowing the statement to be false.
The section under which Johnson was charged notes that “any person who - (a) makes any false statement, for the purpose of being registered as a voter; or in answer to any lawful enquiry by a revising officer, returning officer or presiding officer, or for the purpose of making any objection to the registration of any other person as voter, or in any oath or declaration taken or made by him by virtue of any of the requirements of this act, knowing such statement to be false; shall be guilty of an offence against this act, and any person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the commission of any such offence shall also be guilty of an offence against this act.”
When called on to answer to the charge at his arraignment last month, Johnson pleaded not guilty.
The revising officer and Mr Hall are two of six witnesses listed to give evidence.
Johnson remains on bail.