Sun | May 28, 2023

Judge: Witness’ evidence points to Blackman as gang leader

Published:Friday | February 3, 2023 | 1:12 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter

Andre ‘Blackman’ Bryan could be convicted of being the leader of a criminal organisation if Chief Justice Bryan Sykes accepts the evidence of at least one of the ex-gang members who had testified in the Clansman One-Don Gang trial.

Justice Sykes, before wrapping up his summation in relation to the evidence of two ex-gang members and star prosecution witnesses on Thursday, said that the evidence presented by one of the witnesses, if accepted, is sufficient to establish that Bryan led a criminal organisation.

The self-confessed former top-tier member, who said he was the gang’s banker and Bryan’s personal driver, gave detailed accounts of several murders and shootings, including some which were not covered in the now-reduced 14-count indictment.

The witness, who claimed to have never witnessed any of the murders or shootings but said that at times he heard the gunfire, testified that Bryan had ordered those killings and had assigned roles to his cronies while ensuring that they kept him abreast of each step of the mission.

Justice Sykes pointed out Thursday that, although the evidence placed Bryan away from the scenes of most of the incidents, it appeared that he was involved and had a leading role.

With the exception of two of the alleged murders, the judge said, “It appears he has an integral role either as the conceptualiser, planner and giving directions, or, if a plan was hatched or conceived by someone else, then he would give the approval, or at least persons felt they had to get his approval.

“So, in effect, what Mr ... is suggesting is that Mr Bryan is engaging in activities commonly associated with the leader of a criminal organisation, and whatever policy or plan of execution, he gives the direction and then persons would come back and report about what happened,” the judge observed.

“So, if all of that is true, or accepted, that would be evidence of leadership, where he is charged on count one with being the leader of a criminal organisation,” the judge added.

Justice Sykes had indicated on Thursday that the “culminated effect” of the said witness’ evidence is that no killing or planning could have taken place without Bryan’s permission. The judge, however, is yet to make a ruling on whether he finds that evidence reliable and credible.

The other prosecution witness, who claimed he was a community don, also gave detailed evidence about murders and shootings that Bryan had reportedly ordered, as well as the role played by Bryan in those incidents.

Meanwhile, the judge said there was no evidence of collusion between the two ex-gangsters.

The judge said that while the suggestion has not been made, there is no evidence that the police had manoeuvred the witnesses into giving similar accounts and had ordered them to align their stories.

While noting that the first witness had given his statement in 2019 and the other in January 2020, he said there was also no evidence that the police took the first witness’ statement and shared it with the second witness.

The judge made the observation while reviewing the evidence of both witnesses in relation to the murder of an unnamed Rastaman who was killed on January 14, 2018, on Jones Avenue, St Catherine.

Both witnesses had given alike accounts of the murder, which they claimed Blackman had ordered, and had named similar players and roles.

The judge even noted that the men even had the same description of the car that was used to transport the alleged shooters, and the same order of arrival for the persons involved.

Justice Sykes, however, indicated that, based on the law, evidence of accomplices cannot be used to corroborate another, and that it is not surprising if their accounts are similar when testifying about the same incidents.

Along with similarities, the judge, during the summation, has also observed a number of inconsistencies in their accounts. However, he said that he did not find most of them to be significant.

At the same time, the judge said it was quite evident that both witnesses were diminishing their roles while magnifying the roles of others.

The summation will continue today with a review of the secretly recorded conversations among the alleged gang members.

Bryan and 26 co-defendants are being tried under the Criminal Justice (Suppression of Criminal Organizations) Act and the Firearms Act.

tanesha.mundle@gleanerjm.com