Former Cabinet Minister Shane Gibson tearfully thanked jurors after they cleared him of bribery charges yesterday afternoon
The 58-year-old’s future hung in the balance after he was accused of abusing a Cabinet post for personal gain.
His arrest and charge on August 2, 2017, came months after the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) was swept out of office amid claims of corruption in May 2017.
Gibson faced 15 counts of bribery in respect to $280,000 that he allegedly received from contractor Jonathan Ash in exchange for approving payments totaling $1 million for work done following the cleanup efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
His acquittal marks the second time a member of the former Perry Christie-led administration has been tried and acquitted over allegations of corrupt behavior.
Former PLP Senator Frank Smith, who was exonerated of a bribery charge this February, was a regular attendee during Gibson’s six-week trial.
Gibson’s family and political supporters struggled to contain their excitement after the jury’s foreman announced that they had found him not guilty of all 15 counts in the indictment.
They shouted “hallelujah” but were told to be silent by the former defendant and officers in the court.
However, one man couldn’t suppress his satisfaction much longer and started singing “God is a good God” as they walked out of court.
Outside court, Gibson thanked God and his wife, Jacqueline, “for standing by my side every step along the way”.
He also thanked PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis, his personal assistant Lorraine Hamilton, his legal team and his former constituents.
Gibson explained his decision to exercise his right to remain silent.
“We thought their case was so weak that I didn’t have to take the stand because we knew that they couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I did what they said I did,” he said.
His lead lawyer K.D. Knight, QC, told jurors in his closing address that Gibson was the victim of a political conspiracy.
Knight said that Ash, an uncharged accomplice to the bribery scheme, was motivated to lie because he had been granted immunity.
As evidence of this conspiracy, the defense pointed to a meeting held by investigating officer ASP Debra Thompson between Ash and public servant Deborah Bastian, who had worked closely with Gibson, to “synchronize” their statements.
Although Thompson admitted the joint witness meeting was wrong in hindsight, she said it was a common police practice.
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?”
The prosecution relied on WhatsApp messages between Gibson and Ash and large withdrawals from his accounts around the time he said he was paying Gibson.
Gibson was supported by Davis and former prime minister Christie, Bishop Neil Ellis and other members of the PLP hierarchy.
Knight, Damian Gomez, QC, Philip “Fish” McKenzie and Owen Wells represented Gibson.
James Guthrie, QC, DPP Garvin Gaskin, Terry Archer and Destiny McKinney prosecuted.