Court Clears Cummings, Others Of All Charges -Govt. filed “No Show” plea; Defense says Cummings Vindicated

The ongoing criminal case filed against the political leader and standard bearer of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) Mr. Alexander B. Cummings and others by the Political leader of the All Liberia Party (ALP), Mr. Benoni Urey, came to an end yesterday after Judge Jomah Jallah of the Monrovia City Court ruled on the plea of Nolle Prosequoi filed by the state that it was no longer pursuing the case, thus restoring the liberties of the defendants. The defense in response said the development has vindicated the defendants from the charges.

According to the ruling from the court, the State’s Nolle Prosequoi was assigned yesterday, June 6, 2022. The Defense lawyers at the call of the case requested the Court’s permission to respond to the State’s application and the request was granted in which they informed the court that the Defendants interpose no objection to the State’s application, except that the case should and ought to be dismissed with prejudice to the State because of its voluntary termination of the case comes during the trial after it (State) produced evidence against the Defendants.

The ruling said the Defense argued that ordinarily, a plea of double jeopardy will tie as a defense to a subsequent prosecution if and when it arises, and not at the stage of granting a Nolle Prosequoui without prejudice after the trial has commenced. It however said that when the state requests Nolle Prosequoui without prejudice after trial has commenced, the Court can only grant with reservation to refile after it has determined that jeopardy has not attached at the time of the filing of or granting of a plea of Nolle Prosequoui.

While discussing the case further according to ruling, the Court said that while it is true the State reserves the right to terminate the ongoing criminal Prosecution of the Defendants at any stage of the proceedings, there are limitations to its right to refile the same action or charge and prosecute the Defendants  for the same crimes or any degree thereof or for any offense based on any of the act alleged in the complaint or other charges arising from any interaction, transaction and exchange constituting parts of the common scheme or plan alleged in the complaint. The ruling further said the State’s right to reservation for refilling of the action or re-litigating for re-filing of the action or re-litigating matter is limited by the fact that the Defendants answered the Complaint and pleaded not guilty, the State produced oral and documentary evidence against them and that the State’s decision to terminate the case is voluntary and not occasioned by any event of manifest necessity.

“The doctrine of double jeopardy, although not an issue before this court, applies to all criminal prosecutions, and jeopardy attaches when the accused, as in the case of the Defendants, is placed on trial before a court of competent jurisdiction under a valid complaint upon which the accused is arraigned and to which he pleads, and after the court has begun to hear evidence thereon. It is therefore all too obvious that jeopardy will certainly attach should the state elect to refile this action or charge and prosecute the Defendants for the same crimes or based on any of the acts alleged in the complaint or any transaction growing out of the execution and filing of the framework document of the CPP,” the ruling stated.

The ruling said that it is therefore the considered opinion of the court that the State cannot voluntarily terminate the case with reservation to refile the same action after the Defendants have answered to the Complaint and pleaded not guilty and the State has produced evidence against the Defendants without putting them in jeopardy.

“Wherefore and in view of the foregoing facts and circumstances, the State’s plea of Nolle Prosequoui in favor of the Defendants is granted with Prejudice to the State Government of Liberia. The Defendants are ordered discharged from further answering to the allegations contained in the Complaint and crimes with which they were charged and prosecuted. Furthermore, the Defendants’ liberties are restored as though they were never limited or restricted and the cash bond proffered by the Defendants are ordered return. It is hereby ordered”, the ruling concluded.

Reacting to the ruling, the Defense team of Cummings and others led by Cllr. Abraham Sillah in a press conference held at his office in Sinkor, Monrovia, said the ruling of the court has vindicated the defendants, noting that it has shown that the prosecution did not have any evidence to prosecute the defendants. He said he was excited that the liberty of the defendants were restored which is key to what can be drawn from the case because it was a deliberate attempt by the prosecution to malign the character of Mr. Cummings.

He took serious exception to the claim by the Solicitor General of Liberia and the lead for the prosecution, Cllr. Saymah Syrenious Cephas that the government was dropping the case against Mr. Cummings and others because of the ruling from the Supreme Court on the eligibility of the Unity Party to field a candidate in the Lofa County Senatorial bye-election.

“The Solicitor General misled the public when he said the government was dropping the case against Mr. Cummings and others because of the ruling from the Supreme Court in the case of the Unity Party and the All Liberia Party versus the CPP. It was a clever attempt to deviate from the real issue because the evidence of the prosecution did not exist and does not exist. It was a calculated plan to narrow the chances of Mr. Cummings in the political space and also malign him as one of them”, Cllr. Sillah said.

When asked whether Cummings could file a case for damages against his reputation now that the prosecution has dropped the charges against him, Cllr. Sillah said realistically, it will not be good for him to file a case against the government but those who brought the charges against him and mentioned Mr. Urey, because at the end of the day, they didn’t have any evidence produced.

Touching on the impact of the findings from the international forensic reports that cleared Mr. Cummings in the case, Cllr. Sillah said it may not have bearing on the court because the Defense did not use it as evidence in the case, but it indeed impacted on the decision of the prosecution to file the Nolle Prosequoui because according to him the report further exposed the facts and went in details of the interactions that went on in the chatrooms where decisions were taken on the framework document, citing a specific scenario where on January 25, 2020, Mr. Cummings sent copy of the framework document in the chatroom for the input of the political leaders and other stakeholders and it was confirmed from the interaction that Mr. Theodore Momo, Chairman of the All Liberia Party(ALP) commented and approved for the document to be filed with the National Elections Commission , preparatory to the registration of the CPP.

While asserting that there was a lesson learnt from the whole trial that the prosecution, he said if the government had allowed the case to continue, it would have lost it completely because even the lawyers who revised the framework document and advised the political leaders of CPP are available in flesh and blood to have given their testimonies that indeed they proposed the inclusion of the exit clause in the framework document to guard against politicians jumping ship like in the past once their individual interest was not taken care of, they dump whatever collaboration or coalition they agreed to be part of .

He said the other three political leaders, former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence and Benoni Urey had thought that the exit clause would have affected Mr. Cummings because they were of the opinion that they could do something for him to leave the CPP and at the end of the day, he would have been barred from participating in the 2023 general elections. “But because it held them down, they decided to use it against him and malign him”, Cllr. Sillah said.

He commended Judge Jomah Jallah for the level of professionalism and courage exhibited during the trial and re-echoed his pleasure that the liberties of his clients were restored.

Comments are closed.