After eight days in the witness box, the prosecution’s star witness against former Cabinet minister Shane Gibson finally concluded his evidence yesterday.
Businessman Jonathan Ash exclaimed, “Thank you; I appreciate it; I had a wonderful time,” as he left the courtroom.
Ash is cooperating with the government as it prosecutes Gibson for allegedly soliciting and receiving $280,000 from the businessman from January 2017 to March 2017.
Gibson, who had ministerial oversight of the cleanup and rebuilding efforts following the passage of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, is accused of pocketing the money in exchange for speeding up Ash’s payments for work associated with the cleanup efforts.
During his five-day-long cross-examination, Gibson’s lead lawyer Keith Knight questioned Ash at length about a meeting he had with the investigating officer, ASP Deborah Thompson, government official Deborah Bastian and their lawyers at the Central Detective Unit in September 2017.
Ash has alleged that Bastian acted as an intermediary in delivering $200,000 of the bribes to Gibson before he started paying bribes directly to Gibson.
Knight had suggested that Ash’s statement was altered following this meeting.
In re-examination, lead prosecutor James Guthrie asked, “Did you know this meeting was tape recorded?”
Ash replied, “No, sir. I had no idea.”
Guthrie asked, “So what was said was between those persons present?
Ash replied, “Yes, sir.”
Guthrie asked, “Did your meeting in September affect your evidence?”
Ash replied, “No, sir.”
Guthrie asked, “Did that meeting cause you to change your evidence?”
Ash replied, “No, sir.”
Knight also referred to a restraint order against one of Ash’s bank accounts and suggested that the government had used this as a bargaining tool. Ash refuted this, maintaining that he went to police before the freeze order was instituted.
Guthrie showed Ash the court order that limited access to his account. According to the first order dated July 5, 2017, Ash was permitted access to $100,000 weekly to conduct ordinary business. The order was varied on July 20, 2017 to allow him access to sums up to $500,000.
The order was eventually lifted in September 2017.
Guthrie also cleared up Knight’s suggestions that Ash had received regular payments before and during the charged period.
Ash was shown a spreadsheet that detailed his payment history from the government.
Guthrie highlighted an entry on January 5, 2017; the next payment was made on January 17, 2017, according to the spreadsheet.
Ash has testified that he began receiving checks regularly after he made a $50,000 payment on the bribe demand on January 17, 2017, which was borne out by the spreadsheet exhibited in court.
In re-examination, Ash explained a photo of a pile of damaged shingles that he sent to Gibson in a WhatsApp message. Ash has testified that “shingles” was Gibson’s code for bribe payments and that’s how the word was to be interpreted in their WhatsApp conversation.
Gibson asks, “‘Any shingles today’” and Ash refers to dropping off shingles.
Ash testified, “At the time, I was doing work in Golden Gates removing debris, shingles, rubbish. Obviously, Mr. Gibson wouldn’t be asking me for no rubbish.”
The case resumes before Justice Carolita Bethell and the nine-member jury on November 11.