Tue | Aug 11, 2020

King Valley Gang Trial | 44-y-o looks forward to dinner with family, restarting farm after acquittal

Published:Thursday | July 9, 2020 | 12:31 AMDanae Hyman/Staff Reporter
Sykes
Sykes

Copeland Sankey, one of the six alleged members of the King Valley Gang who were acquitted yesterday, said he is now anticipating rebuilding his business that was destroyed when he was wrongfully arrested by the police almost two years ago.

The men, who were accused of terrorising the citizens of Grange Hill and its environs in Westmoreland, carrying out contract killings, rapes, and a string of bike robberies, leaving unsuspecting victims in fear, were found not guilty yesterday after Chief Justice Bryan Sykes ruled that the prosecutors did not provide enough evidence to convict them.

Sykes also pointed to inconsistencies in statements given by the main witness, a self-proclaimed former member of the gang.

Although they were all found not guilty of breaching the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organisations) Act yesterday, only Sankey was allowed to walk free as there are other charges pending against the others.

Speaking to The Gleaner while making his way through the Supreme Court’s gate in downtown Kingston, Sankey, the 44-year-old father of two, reaffirmed his innocence and said that more than anything, he was looking forward to having dinner with his family and to rebuilding his farm.

“People know that I am innocent. I did feel bad, terrified, and things like that. Just to know I am innocent and to be embarrassed like this,” he said. “My farm get mash up. Everything gone down the drain, just like that. I use to plant cane, and I had a pig farm with over 100 pigs, and it all just go like that. Have to just go back from basics and restart.”

The other five accused – Lindell Powell, Carlington Godfrey, Rannaldo McKennis, Christon Grant, and Derval Williams – were remanded and are expected to be transferred back to Westmoreland to answer to the other charges.

Williams and McKennis are charged with the murder of Lorenzo Beckford, who was referred to in the trial as ‘Quan’.

Powell was convicted in February for the illegal possession of a firearm and is currently serving a two-year sentence.

Sykes explained that his main reason for acquitting the men was the lack of supporting evidence from the Crown, although there were modern technologies which could have assisted with providing the relevant evidence.

“This is the 21st century. Here is a man who says, “I am a murderer, rapist, scammer”. No support. This is the modern age. This is not years ago. We have enough cases involving the communication agencies now. You don’t even have to make a call for them to trace you. Once your phone is on, they can connect it to the nearest tower,” the judge said.

“The evidence in this case comes exclusively from the witness. As I understand it, there was no forensic evidence. There was evidence from (witness name) that he participated in certain robberies, but there was no evidence from the police of the robberies or complaints,” Sykes said.

Further, he shared numerous other instances where evidence provided by the main witness was not supported by the prosecution.

‘CAN’T MAKE BLOOD OUT OF STONE’

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn said that she was surprised with the ruling, adding that the prosecution did the best with what had been given to them.

Llewellyn said that although the police tried to gather evidence from the alleged victims of the gang, they all refused.

“The investigators, they can’t make blood out of stone. They have put forward the best that they are able to gather, which was this particular witness, who made certain allegations that he had embarked on certain enterprises with the individuals,” Llewellyn said.

The DPP further disclosed that she was awaiting the verdict of the Uchence Wilson Gang trial, which was also presided over by Justice Sykes.

In that case, the prosecution relied heavily on evidence from two confessed gang members, who told the court that they participated in robberies in St Andrew, St Catherine, Clarendon, St Ann, Trelawny, and St Mary.

They said that the gang would trade in stolen items, particularly electronics, at a pawnshop in the Corporate Area.

Six of the 23 accused in the case were previously freed due to insufficient evidence.

danae.hyman@gleanerjm.com