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Appelate court to rule on Ffriend’s case

Published:Wednesday | May 20, 2015 | 5:00 AMLeighton Levy
Ffriend

Jamaica's basketball player, Kimani Ffriend, should know within a month if his appeal to overturn a three-year sentence for vehicular manslaughter in Serbia will meet favour with the panel of judges before whom his lawyers appeared yesterday.

In September 2014, Ffriend was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for the death of Nevena Dragutinovic, a 30-year-old account executive. She was hit by a car being driven by Ffriend in Belgrade on the morning of November 3, 2012. Reports said she had just alighted from a taxi cab at about 4 a.m. when she was hit. She had been celebrating with her boyfriend and her sister. Both were witnesses to the tragedy.

Back then, the Superior Court in Belgrade extended the player's house arrest until the matter clears the appeal process. He was also banned from driving for two years in that country.

Ffriend, who is due to be released in November 2015, has been under house arrest since August 2013 after being incarcerated in a Serbian jail for more than 10 months. He was allowed house arrest after it was determined that his life had been threatened while in prison.

In court yesterday, attorneys Tintor Yugoslav and Branislav Manic appeared before the appellate panel comprising three senior judges, who reviewed the verdict, including the charge against Ffriend, as well as a summary of how the judge in the first court arrived at her verdict.

Ffriends' lawyers were then allowed to present their arguments for the appeal during which they disputed elements of the prosecution's case, including where the taxi had stopped on that fateful morning, where the woman's body fell and the manner in which the authorities obtained their evidence.

They also presented the testimony of expert witnesses that showed that their client was not deserving of the sentence he received.

Ffriend was then allowed to address the judges.

He told The Gleaner exclusively that he was contrite in his statements to the judges.

"I basically told them I was sad for everything and that I offered my prayers for the family," he said. "I told them that the incident has changed my life and I have to live with it."

He said he told them that the facts and evidence of the case showed that what he is accused of is not what really happened.