Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Ford guilty - Judge rejects medical doctor's defence against corruption charges

Published:Friday | August 18, 2017 | 8:00 AMLivern Barrett
Jephthah Ford

A judge yesterday rejected a claim by well-known medical doctor Jephthah Ford that he offered a police investigator millions of dollars to release two Surinamese men and the $55 million they were held with because he was trying to help root out corruption in the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

Instead, Parish Judge Simone Wolfe Reece scolded Ford, saying he "sought to intercept and get in the middle" of the process to have the men placed before the court and a determination made as to whether the cash was criminal property.

"This plan by Dr Ford, I disbelieve," Wolfe Reece declared before finding Ford guilty on two counts of attempting to pervert the course of justice in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court.

"He sought to say to the police, 'do not put the men before the court and return the money' without any determination whether this money was criminal property," she added.

The two Surinamese men were held with cash totalling US$533,886, or approximately J$55 million, as well as $1.3 million in Jamaican currency, during a traffic stop near Half-Way Tree in St Andrew on April 7, 2014.

A week later, according to police Sergeant Franklyn McLaren, who was based at the Financial Investigations Division, they were charged with possession of stolen property and conspiracy to possess criminal property and were booked to appear before the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court on April 15.

But during the trial, which began last year, prosecutor Joel Brown, acting assistant director of public prosecutions, led evidence that the popular medical doctor contacted McLaren and requested a meeting.

'We can't tolerate people taking things into their hands' - judge

Sergeant Franklyn McLaren was fitted with a covert recording device which captured Jephthah Ford telling him during the meeting that he was trying to save him from himself.

The police investigator testified, too, that Ford told him that "there were two men in custody at the Portmore Police Station that I had charged and that the charges are spurious and that these men are not to be placed before the court".

McLaren said that the medical doctor promised that he would be paid from the cash once it was returned to the men. McLaren said Ford indicated that he was aware that others would have to assist to have the men freed and the cash returned, and "asked me to write and indicate how much I would need to do that".

"I wrote 50 per cent on a paper he gave me. I gave him this paper and he used his pen and draw (sic) a line through it and wrote 40 per cent, held it up for me to see, then immediately tore it up. He was telling me that he was a professional, a man of integrity, and that I should trust him," the sergeant testified.

But Ford indicated, in his defence, that he was aware that McLaren was wearing a recording device and said the plan was to entrap the policeman, whom he accused of being corrupt. According to the medical doctor, a police team was also on standby to arrest McLaren if and when the $55 million was released.

However, the judge rejected this assertion, saying she found McLaren to be a truthful witness "who did not seek to mislead the court". "His [demeanour] was [that] of an honest man," Wolfe Reece emphasised.

Declaring that it was for the court to determine whether the charges against the Surinamese men were spurious, Wolfe Reece said citizens have a right to ensure justice is served, but there was a right way to do it.

"We can't tolerate people taking things into their hands," she said.

Ford is to return to court on August 22, when a date will be set for his sentencing.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com