By TANEKA THOMPSON
Tribune News Editor
LAWYERS for former Cabinet minister Shane Gibson filed documents in the Supreme Court yesterday alleging the statements of two key prosecution witnesses have been “tainted” and are not reliable, painting a picture of “unprecedented levels of witness coaching and evidence alteration” at the hands of lawyers and the Anti-Corruption Unit.
Transcripts of recorded meetings in 2017 with police, the two main witnesses in the prosecution’s bribery case against Gibson, and their attorneys were filed with an affidavit in support of Gibson’s application to have the case against him thrown out.
The transcripts detail several meetings in 2017 police officers identified as ASP Thompson and Sgt 1877 Rolle, the lead investigators in the case, had with witnesses Johnathan Ash and Deborah Bastian and their respective attorneys.
The affidavit and supported filings allege - based on the covertly recorded meetings - police engaged in a “secretive process of coaching” Mr Ash and Ms Bastian to coordinate their statements on the alleged bribery.
The transcripts also detail how the two witnesses were told what to say and what to leave out of their statements.
It is also alleged witness statements were backdated. During one meeting, police appear to tell Ms Bastian to date her statement July 25, 2017 even though she met with them in September. Gibson’s attorneys argue this was done to give the “misleading” impression the statement had been made before his arraignment last August.
It is unclear who recorded the meetings.
In a meeting that took place on September 25, 2017, ASP Thompson tells Mr Ash, Ms Bastian and their attorneys Alecia Bowe and Raymond Rolle, respectively, that they were invited back to the police station to clear up uncertainty in their previous accounts detailing a meeting with Gibson and the two witnesses.
Mr Ash had several lucrative clean-up contracts with the government and said he was owed money by the Christie administration. Ms Bastian worked with Gibson and said she and Mr Ash were friends. It is alleged the bribes were set up after a meeting by them with Gibson.
“And the reason I invited y’all back here was to clear up some ambiguity in your statements in terms of y’all account of what occurred on the day of when y’all met with him, and as it relates to how much money you gave Ms Bastian because those accounts, it differs,” ASP Thompson says in the transcript of the secret recording.
“. . . Mr Ash you could give an overview of what you told us transpired and then if there’s anything you don’t agree with, with what he is saying Ms Bastian, you let us know and then I want you to explain to him what you told us and if there’s anything you don’t agree with, you let us know so we could clear this up.
“We need to iron this out because y’all are giving two different accounts as to what transpired leading up to the meeting, what happened on the day of the meeting and then the payments, how much money was disbursed as it related to what you put in Deborah Bastian to give to Mr Gibson. I need to get that clear.”
The two witnesses gave differing accounts in that September meeting on some issues, including the amount of money they allegedly agreed to give Gibson from Mr Ash’s contract payments.
After the two gave statements, ASP Thompson says they can sign off on them later that day or the next, adding she will delete some things they said and “then just clear up one or two points”.
After Mr Ash asked if he could sign his statement immediately because he had plans to travel that day, the officer said she needed at least an hour or two to “clean up” the statement.
“Y’all two (Ms Bastian and Mr Ash) saying the same thing,” Ms Bowe, Mr Ash’s attorney says. “It’s just the end result is the money end up in Mr Gibson’s pocket.”
ASP Thompson then says: “Yeah but see that. . . even though that might be the focus, the ambiguity might turn out to the focus of the trial.”
Mr Rolle agrees, adding, “They’ll try to take the focus off of him having this money rather than focusing on that, they’ll focus on the minor discrepancies.”
At one point, Ms Bowe, with the police present, tells Ms Bastian what evidence should not be given in her statement to avoid the impression that the two witnesses had “entrapped” Gibson.
“We knew the meeting (with Gibson) was going to take place, we know what was going to be said in the meeting because I had already coached him (Mr Ash) on what to say,” Ms Bastian says, according to the transcript.
Ms Bowe tells her not to go into that, adding, “When you start talking about you were coaching him because it means you two would’ve been in cahoots, really.”
“Conspiracy,” Mr Rolle interjects.
“Conspiracy, and then when you look, entrapment, entrapped the minister,” Ms Bowe says.
Ms Bastian began her statement to police detailing her friendship with Mr Ash, saying they were so close he once sat with her for hours in the waiting room while her daughter was getting medical care at Doctors Hospital.
Mr Ash’s lawyer tells her not to mention the pair’s friendship because it would be seized upon by the defence. She tells Ms Bastian to instead focus her story to police on the fact that Mr Ash came to her complaining he had not been paid by the government for work completed, thus setting of the chain of the events of alleged bribery.
At one point during the September 2017 meeting, when Ms Bastian appears to be alone with an unidentified male, she expresses frustration with the fact that the prosecution is not “protecting” her like Mr Ash.
“But what I find interesting, right? They don’t have a problem protecting him, to have him in.. but they don’t care nothing ‘bout me. Yeah, you see what I mean? They don’t have any problem. And they don’t understand Ash is lie.
“. . I telling you. Ash is lie. Ash gave them what they wanted because Ash wanted his money to be released, here. That’s all he is. And he gave them exactly what they wanted.”
An affidavit by Ryszard Humes, an associate of law firm Munroe and Associates, said meetings with police and the witnesses “resulted in the contamination of the evidence of both principal witnesses and such that it would not be possible for them to give independent evidence free of that contamination.
“It is also apparent from the audio recording/transcripts that the parties were prepared to edit and adjust the witness statements to ensure harmony of critical information tending to prejudice the applicant’s guarantee of a fair and impartial trial.”
Ms Humes said the “unprecedented levels of witness coaching and evidence alteration in this case was so egregious” that the potential evidence of Mr Ash, Ms Bastian and ASP Thompson has been “irremediably tainted”.
Ms Humes’ affidavit also alleges “key witnesses have actively colluded to modify and harmonise their respective witness statements and their proposed evidence so as to strengthen” the Crown’s case against Gibson.
Edward Fitzgerald, whose argument in support of a stay of the proceedings against Gibson was filed with the transcripts, said the investigative process “resulted in the contamination” of both witnesses’ evidence.
“The whole process offends the well-known principle that ‘discussion between witnesses should not take place and that the statements and proofs of one witness should not be disclosed to any other witness.’
“. . . The witnesses were wrongly put together, wrongly invited to compare and synchronise their evidence, actually directed what to say at key passages, invited to discuss their evidence and its potential impact on the jury and to avoid opening up issues for cross-examination by the defence, expressly told to mislead the court by putting in a false date for the statement of Deborah Bastian. This constitutes a course of conduct that makes the continuation of the prosecution an affront to the rule of law.”
Gibson is seeking an order to have the indictment against him quashed and the case against him dismissed or stayed.
In July, Gibson’s lawyers filed a three-page motion calling for his case to be dismissed due to witness coaching and overarching collusion between various police and prosecution units.
He is facing trial for multiple bribery charges concerning Mr Ash.
Transcripts filed reveal alleged bid to co-ordinate witness statements
By Rashad Rolle, Tribune Staff Reporter
TRANSCRIPTS lawyers for Shane Gibson filed in the Supreme Court yesterday allegedly detail the efforts of police investigators and lawyers to synchronise the statements of the two principal prosecution witnesses concerning how the decision was made to pay Gibson money.
During an alleged meeting between Gibson, Jonathan Ash and Deborah Bastian, the former Cabinet minister never vocalised a request to be given money.
“We never mentioned anything about money in Minister Gibson’s presence or giving him money,” the transcript identifies Ms Bastian as saying.
Instead, Gibson allegedly smiled and walked away after the topic of illicit payments to an official at the Ministry of Works, came up, according to Mr Ash.
During his meeting with Ms Bastian, ASP Thompson, Sgt Rolle and lawyers Alecia Brown and Raymond Rolle, the contractor claimed that at one point during the pair’s meeting with Gibson, Ms Bastian unexpectedly said: “You tell Mr Gibson you is give... some money (to the Ministry of Works official), right? …So I look at her to say well, ‘Man, why you would bring this up in this meeting? This man ain’t need to know this. But then again him being the minister in charge, right, I didn’t lie. I come again and confess, ‘Yes I did give the guy couple of dollars.’ And he didn’t say anything. He start smiling. Uhhh, he didn’t say well, ‘Why you paying him?’ Or nothing like that. All he did was start smiling and after that he get up and then he left.”
Mr Ash and Ms Bastian agreed they began discussing arrangements to pay Gibson while walking downstairs following the meeting.
However, the pair did not agree who between them raised the issue of paying Gibson.
When he recounted the story from his perspective, Mr Ash said Ms Bastian “called the figure of the money” and said $250,000 had to be given to Gibson.
Later, the two disputed the point, with Ms Bastian saying: “I don’t remember who brought it up. I think I may have said to him ‘now, you know…’.”
Mr Ash then interjected: “And you know I was saying no.”
“I don’t know that you were saying no but anyway,” responded Ms Bastian.
“Oh lord,” Mr Ash replied.
“Let’s go through this,” replied Ms Bastian. “I don’t know. Maybe you did say no. I don’t know.”
“I don’t know if you told me no but then I said to you, ‘Well you know now he looking for some money’ and I don’t know who said what the amount was. I believe and I’m going to say this but I can’t prove it. I believe Ash suggested an amount and I’m almost certain I said to him, ‘Boy you crazy aye?’
“He suggested an amount more than 250 (thousand), I believe. Now, just hold on….so when we started to talk about this money, he said to me, he said, ‘Look, I want this man to know that I for real. I ain’ playing.’ He say, ‘So I ga give you something’ and I don’t remember if he gave it to me that day or the next day but ‘I ga make a payment.’”
One thing about which the pair agreed is Gibson was ultimately paid money, though they were not clear on how much.
They allege that Mr Ash gave money to Ms Bastian who then gave money to Gibson. At some point, however, Mr Ash began giving money to Gibson directly, they claimed.
ASP Thompson said during the meeting: “Is it agreed between the two of y’all that it was anywhere around 200 thousand that he would’ve given you in money?”
Ms Bastian said: “Yeah.”
“That you personally put in Mr Gibson’s hand?” asked ASP Thompson.
“Like I said,” responded Ms Bastian, “when I was keeping the count and he was giving me the money I was able to tell him exactly because it wasn’t no blind cheque. It wasn’t no 360 or 400. We had agreed to 250, when it would’ve gotten to 250, I would’ve said to Ash, you are now at 250. You don’t owe Gibson nothing because you never gave Gibson nothing. But now it is, you start giving Gibson money.”
Mr Ash responded: “He ask me if I gat any shingles.”
Mr Ash told police he understood the word shingles to be “code” for money.
ASP Thompson continued to press the two in search of their understanding concerning the $250,000 near the end of the first meeting detailed in the transcripts.
“You saying you told him to forego a payment? In your mind that foregone payment was for Mr Gibson? That was your understanding?”
After Mr Ash replied “yes”, ASP Thompson said: “All right, so those areas in the statement I just clear up and then I’ll invite y’all back just to sign because I need y’all to be synchronised with that.”