The lawyer for former Cabinet Minister Shane Gibson says his client accepted no bribes “or shingles”, as prosecutors allege.
On Tuesday, attorney KD Knight, QC, said Gibson’s prosecution was “the result of what appears to be a conspiracy and corrupt behavior”.
In rebuttal, James Guthrie, QC, said the conspiracy claim was “a desperate attempt to distract you from the evidence, where there is no real defense”.
The defense and the prosecution made their closing arguments yesterday as the corruption trial of the former government minister winds down.
Gibson is facing 15 counts of bribery in relation to $280,000 that he allegedly received from contractor Jonathan Ash as an inducement to approve payments totaling $1 million for work done following the cleanup efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
The prosecution and defense got their final chance to convince the jury of their take on the evidence before Justice Carolita Bethell turns the high-profile case over to the nine-member jury after her summation today.
Knight referred to ASP Debra Thompson’s admission that she was “wrong in hindsight” to hold a joint meeting on September 25, 2017 with prospective prosecution witnesses Ash and Deborah Bastian to iron out ambiguities in their witness statements.
Bastian, who prosecutors say acted as Gibson’s agent in the first five counts in the indictment by soliciting a $250,000 bribe from Ash and collecting $200,000 in bribes on Gibson’s behalf, was previously arrested as Gibson’s co-conspirator, but was later interviewed as a prosecution witness, the jury has heard.
Knight said, “If they do it to him, could you imagine what they’d do to the ghetto youth. Shane Gibson get lawyer to defend him; what about the ghetto youth? Is it right? Is it fair? Is it just?”
In response, Guthrie pointed out that the meeting took place more than a month after Gibson had been arrested and charged with the offenses.
He rebuffed the idea of a conspiracy as the defense knew about the meeting and the changes made to the statements.
Guthrie said jurors saw for themselves that Ash was “hardly a pushover” and whatever changes were made, were made voluntarily.
Knight suggested that there was no evidence that Gibson helped Ash to get paid, but there was evidence that he’d been assisted by Permanent Secretary Jack Thompson and then Financial Secretary Simon Wilson.
However, Guthrie pointed to Gibson’s police interview where he agreed that Bastian processed the bills associated with the cleanup and submitted them to him for approval.
Guthrie said, “The person who did the approving was the minister.”
Knight has claimed that Ash lied in his testimony. However, Guthrie said the only person proven to be a liar was the defendant.
Guthrie said that when Thompson suggested that Gibson had, on numerous occasions, demanded “shingles” from Ash, he never once asked for an explanation because he “knew exactly what that meant”.
When he answered the question, Gibson said, “I have never asked or demanded any shingles from Jonathan Ash.”
Guthrie said, “The answer was a lie. You can see from the WhatsApp message (from Gibson to Ash), ‘Any shingles today?’”
“So, who, members of the jury, is telling the truth about the meaning of shingles? Is it Mr. Ash?” Guthrie asked.
He pointed out that Knight suggested that shingles were referred to as roofing materials. In support of this point, he has focused on a photo Ash sent to Gibson of damaged shingles among other debris.
Guthrie said, “It’s obviously a photo of dumped material. Why would Mr. Gibson, for any possible reason, say any shingles today, for any of that?
“Mr. Gibson was asking for money and it was dirty money that he had no right to have, which is why he called it shingles.”