Defendant Eric Bentuo was on trial for aggravated assault after Presiding Criminal Court “A” Judge acquitted co-defendant Howard Brooks on May 27 on grounds that prosecutors had filed the “wrong form action” against Brooks.
The two motorcyclists, who claimed to be brothers, were jointly indicted based on prosecution’s claims that they wounded Officer David Y. Frank of the Police Support Unit of the Liberia National Police in early February at the GSA Road Junction.
The EPS – formerly known as Special Security Service or SSS which defendant Bentuo’s father says he works with, is an elite national security force that provides protection for the Liberian Presidency and other VIPs, among others. He gave no further details on what work he does specifically at the EPS.
An attempt by defendant Bentuo’s parents to serve as sureties and secure his release from perpetual custody, while still facing trial at the Temple of Justice, has now landed his father Mr. James W. Bentuo into prison indefinitely at the Monrovia Central Prison until convict Bentuo can be brought to court.
The defendant’s father Mr. Bentuo acknowledged being one of the authors of a promissory note read in open court by Judge Willie in which he and one Martu took responsibility and assured the court that they would produce the defendant whenever the court desires.
The sureties from Mr. Bentuo and Martu authorized the court to hold them responsible for the defendant, failure to produce him in court.
The court ignored the defense counsel’s request for continuance to allow the parents some time to produce the defendant, as prosecutors resisted the defense’s appeal on grounds that it was deliberate attempt to baffle justice.
The court said the father Mr. Bentuo, who stood as one of the sureties, had himself narrated in court that he had been calling his son Eric ahead of the ruling scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 17, but found that the defendant’s phone was continually switched off.
The court said the purpose of a bail bond is to enable the defendant to leave court and appear when they are needed by the court; and their failure to appear was tantamount to “bail jumping,” a legal phrase meaning “intentional failure to comply with conditions of bail.”
In line with laws that defendant must be present at every stage of the trial, Judge Willie has therefore indefinitely suspended ruling in the aggravated assault case because he says the court does not know when defendant Eric Bentuo will appear.
But while he remains away from the court’s ruling, Judge Willie has committed the defendant’s father Mr. Bentuo to jail in keeping with the promissory note made by the surety.
Though Judge Willie said crimes were not transferable, it was the court’s view that defendant Bentuo’s absence was “deliberate and intended to abscond justice,” saying, Mr. James Bentuo will be held until defendant Bentuo is produced.
The court said it cannot attach a specific time for the reading of the final judgement since it does not equally know when the defendant will be seen. It however noted that if both sureties – Mr. Bentuo and Madam Martu, who was not in court – can produce the defendant, the ruling could be read.
The defense took exception, having earlier informed the court that it did not know reasons for the absence for its client on the day of the ruling. When they contacted the defendant’s father, the defense team said he similarly told them he had been calling his son both his phone was off, saying, he did not know his whereabouts.
But state lawyer Cllr. A. Tamba Gboree said the defense’s submission was flimsy and must not be granted, as he had been in court throughout the trial and was well informed of the court’s final ruling date.
He argued that it was a “concocted plan” calculated to delay and baffle trial, as the father who was never present in court during the entire proceedings to have surfaced on Wednesday, June 17 and expressed the absence of his son for whom he stood as surety.
Cllr. Gboree asked the court to set aside the defendant’s criminal appearance bond and order his re-arrest and for the father to answer why he should not be held in contempt.
After the judge suspended ruling in the case, Mr. Bentuo was immediately escorted into the Court Sheriff's office yesterday to await his jail commitment. By Winston W. Parley - Editing by Jonathan Browne