Al's guilty - Judge chides pastor for being "less than candid with the court"
A JUDGE yesterday had some harsh words for the Reverend Merrick 'Al' Miller before she found the popular pastor guilty of a corruption charge related to the 2010 capture of drug kingpin Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.
Parish Judge Simone Wolfe-Reece said that based on the evidence presented throughout the two-year trial, she had formed the view that Miller, the founding pastor of Fellowship Tabernacle in St Andrew, was "less than candid with the court" about what happened the day Coke was captured.
"I find that his behaviour throughout was behaviour that facilitated the desires of Mr Coke. In the circumstances, in so far as the charge is concerned, I reject the evidence that was led by the accused man [Miller]," Wolfe-Reece said.
"He appeared to be, based on the evidence, evasive with details," she added in reference to the evidence of police personnel that Miller led them on a high-speed chase after three times ignoring their attempts to stop the sport utility vehicle in which he was transporting Coke.
By comparison, Wolfe-Reece said that based on her assessment, the police personnel who gave evidence for the prosecution were "witnesses of truth".
A subdued Miller declined to comment on the criticisms as he left the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court on bail.
"We just accept it and leave it for now. Not much to say at this point. Our legal minds will deal with that and I'm sure, in time, we will address those issues," he told The Gleaner.
Six years after Dudus' arrest
Miller's conviction for attempting to pervert the course of justice comes more than six years after Coke was captured along the Mandela Highway in St Catherine on June 22, 2010. His arrest ended a nationwide manhunt that began a month earlier with a joint police-military operation in west Kingston. At least 74 civilians and one member of the Jamaica Defence Force died during the operations.
Local authorities had issued an arrest warrant for Coke, who was wanted in the United States on narcotics and firearm charges. Miller has, however, insisted that he was taking the then fugitive to surrender at the United States Embassy in St Andrew and that local law-enforcement authorities were aware of this.
But in handing down her verdict, Wolfe-Reece said she found, "as a fact", that Miller "embarked on an act or course of conduct that tended to pervert the course of justice".
"I find, as a fact, that the evidence supports this finding of fact that [from] his behaviour, it can be inferred that he was seeking to evade the local authority by the behaviour that was displayed," the judge said.
Miller faces a fine or up to three years' imprisonment when he returns to court for sentencing on September 15.