Bail denied to Grand Bay man fighting extradition to the USVI

Bail has been denied for Grand Bay resident, Kennison Charles, who has been deemed a flight risk as he faces possible extradition to the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) for murder and gun-related charges.

Charles is wanted in the USVI on a charge of first-degree murder, of another Dominican Hans ‘Rastaman’ Oliver, which allegedly took place in St.Thomas on March 26, 2016.

He is also wanted on charges of voluntary manslaughter, first-degree assault, third-degree assault, unauthorized use of a firearm causing murder, unauthorized use of a firearm during voluntary manslaughter, unauthorized use of a firearm during a first-degree assault, third-degree assault with a firearm, murder, manslaughter, first-degree assault and third-degree assault.

The USVI, by virtue of an Extradition Treaty between Dominica and the United States, had issued the extradition warrant in accordance with the extradition treaty between the two countries which was ratified by the US President on January 20, 1999 and by Dominica on May 23, 2000. The extradition treaty came into force on May 25, 2000.

Based on the extradition warrant issued by the USA and a Warrant in the First Instance issued by a Dominican Magistrate, Charles was arrested in Grand Bay where he has been residing for the past five years and taken before the Magistrate court where the issue of bail first arose.

At the bail application hearing on February 23, Defense Attorney David Bruney, presented to the court character documents which he said served to establish the way in which Charles is viewed in his community.

The three documents included a “Standing in solidarity with Kennison” letter with the signatures of 254 residents of Grand Bay and a letter which was addressed to the Prime Minister, Minister of National Security and the Attorney General, in which Charles fellow villagers pleaded with them to have the extradition requests barred.

However, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Evelina Baptiste, objected to two of the three documents which Bruney attempted to tender to the court – “Standing in solidarity with Kennison” letter and the letter which was addressed to the different ministers of government.

According to Baptiste, the documents which spoke to Charles’ character were not taken under oath and could inherently prejudice the mind of the court.

She added that the other letter was addressed to the Prime Minister, Minister of National Security and the Attorney General and should be sent to these individuals and not the court.

Ruling in agreement with the DPP, Magistrate Pearl Williams said she had taken into consideration the separation of powers doctrine, as it related to the letter to the different ministries and also the fact that the “Standing in solidarity with Kennison” letter could be prejudicial to the court based on its content.

In her appeal to the court to not grant bail, the DPP argued that the nature of the allegations and the “great” likelihood that Charles could abscond needed to be taken into consideration.

DPP Baptiste tried to convince the court that the penalties attached to the crimes are enough to cause Charles to evade justice, if he is found guilty.

“He is a flight risk and the propensity that the fugitive may leave the jurisdiction is great. He said that he knew that they (the US) were after him so why did he not go back to answer his charges?” she asked.

However, in his plea to the court, Bruney said Charles is a model citizen with no conviction who has “done nothing within our jurisdiction that would suggest he is a danger to anyone.”

“He is clean, no conviction, lived a normal life upon his entry in Dominica until the present time and there is no threat of him being a flight risk because he had surrendered his passport. All the conditions that you could want, he is prepared to adhere to it,” he stated.

The attorney further claimed that Charles was aware of the allegations made against him hence, “he knew the US was coming for him, yet he did not run. If he runs, where is he running to,” Bruney asked. “You have an allegation from the United States and I will not go into details of how African Americans are erroneously charged and convicted within their territory. So I’m saying to you, Your Honor, there is no danger to the Grand Bay community.”

Bruney also disclosed that Charles had secured a surety who is willing to give up his residential dwelling and his lifelong assets as security for the accused.

“He has a baby, his girlfriend who he has been with for more than 5 years, his mom is in the community of Grand Bay and he has a full community behind him, so you think he would want to let down all these people by running away? No, he wants to come to court to prove his innocence  because he has too many people depending on him for him to run away,” the lawyer declared.

Magistrate Williams, in handing down her ruling, said the court is satisfied that Charles was aware of the allegations against him and as such left St. Thomas and came to Dominica.

“So it is the court’s view that the likelihood of the defendant to abscond is great so the defendant will be remanded at the Dominica State Prison,” she stated.

The matter was adjourned to March 9, 2021, as Magistrate Williams says she intends to deal with the matter promptly.

Upon leaving the courthouse, an emotional Charles was cheered on by a number a gathering of Grand Bay residents who were being closely watched by several police officers.