A judge yesterday partially lifted a gag order in the case of Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Cabinet Minister Shane Gibson to announce his September 23 trial date on allegations of corruption in public office.
Justice Indra Charles set Gibson’s trial date on charges that he received $610,000 in bribes from contractor Jonathan Ash to expedite payments related to clean-up efforts following Hurricane Matthew, after dismissing a motion that sought to end his prosecution.
Charles said, “I refuse to quash this voluntary bill of indictment, which is preferred against the applicant, and to stay the criminal proceedings against him.
“In my considered opinion, the applicant faces very serious allegations of corruption in public office. He should be tried.
“Public confidence in the criminal justice system is more likely to be shaken if the applicant is not tried.”
Gibson had the support of his wife Jacqueline and former parliamentary colleagues Michael Halkitis, Jerome Fitzgerald and Keith Bell.
Former PLP Senator Frank Smith, who was last month acquitted of bribery and extortion charges over alleged misconduct as the Public Hospitals Authority chairman, was also in court for moral support.
Gibson, the former labor and national insurance minister, was on August 3, 2017 charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit extortion, two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery, 15 counts of extortion, 16 counts of bribery and one count of misconduct in public office.
In May 2018, the indictment against him was amended and Gibson now faces 15 counts of bribery and is accused of receiving $610,000 in kickbacks from contractor Jonathan Ash.
In September, Gibson’s legal team of Edward Fitzgerald, QC, Anthony McKinney, QC, and Owen Wells sought to have the voluntary bill of indictment quashed after filing a constitutional motion that alleged “prosecutorial misconduct had rendered a fair trial impossible”.
However, the prosecution’s team of James Guthrie, QC, Terry Archer and Destiny McKinney asked the court to strike out the motion as abuse of process.
A short time later, Justice Indra Charles issued a gag order preventing the mainstream media and bloggers from reporting and commenting on the case.
However, those reporting restrictions were lifted briefly yesterday for Charles’ ruling.
Charles also struck out the constitutional motion as an abuse of process.
Charles set a status hearing for May 7.