Convicted attorney Vonda Minerva Pile today stood in the dock of the No. 5 Supreme Court with no visible emotion as she was sent to HMP Dodds until July 16. Some of her colleagues at the Bar, however could be seen wiping tears from their eyes as Pile continued to maintain her innocence.
The remand order was handed down despite two submissions for Pile to remain on bail and moments after she was found guilty on a majority verdict of stealing US$96,008.22 (BDS$191,416. 39) from former client Anstey King.
“. . . At no time have I ever or at anytime been guilty of dishonesty or theft,” the 27-year practicing attorney maintained.
The charged atmosphere in the court came after over two hours of deliberations by the nine-member jury. After retiring around 12:28 p.m. the panel returned around 2:05 p.m. and informed Madam Justice Pamela Beckles that they had failed to reach a unanimous verdict. They left shortly after and returned just before 3 p.m. and delivered a seven to two majority guilty verdict on the charge that she stole the money from King, between April 29, 2009 and October 26, 2010. The same majority found her not guilty of money laundering in that she engaged in the disposal of the amount being the proceeds of crime during that time.
Acting Deputy Director of Public Prosecution Anthony Blackman who prosecuted the case along with Senior Crown Counsel Krystal Delaney requested that the attorney’s bail be revoked at this stage pending sentence.
The request saw Queen’s Counsel Michael Lashley who was sitting in the court along with over a dozen more attorneys putting in an appearance for Pile amicus curiae before rushing out the court for his robe in order to be heard by the judge.
During that time Pile addressed the judge.
“I am going to thank the jury for their decision. I am going to maintain even though the jury brought back a seven – two verdict of guilty of theft, I maintain . . . that at no time have I ever or at anytime been guilty of dishonestly or theft,” Pile who represented herself throughout the trial said just before making her submission to remain on bail pending sentence.
“For several years I have been attending court . . . there is nothing on my part to say that I would flee the jurisdiction, run anywhere and at the end of the day the paramount thing with bail is to ensure attendance. I have not ran anywhere [nor] I do not intend to run anywhere. I intend to be present and accounted for, on each and every occasion,” she added.
Moments after she finished her submission Lashley returned fully robed and told Justice Beckles that Pile was a good and proper candidate for bail. He pointed to her stellar attendance at her court sittings, the fact that she is gainfully employed, that she was not a flight risk and that the “strictest of conditions” could be imposed.
The Acting DPP responded saying that Pile’s status was now changed and that any bail application prior to sentencing should be heard at another hearing.
“It has always been tradition when a person is found guilty of offences that they are remanded into custody pending any bail application prior to sentencing . . . that is the normal course and we know that. I am not saying to this court that this now convicted person cannot be considered for bail at a future time, what I am saying is that, this is not the stage for a bail application to be heard. And we have to be careful . . . in setting precedence in these cases,” Blackman submitted.
Justice Beckles stated that the maximum sentence for such an offence was “a lengthy one” and that must be considered under the circumstances.
“We have to be very careful in the precedence that we set,” the judge said as she remanded Pile to Dodds pending sentencing and as her colleagues watched, some tearful.
Pile, who had been standing in the dock stated: “I have no difficulty if the court remands me to prison. I shall say this . . . prison is not for a dog and if it is the Crown’s will that I go to prison for whatever crux then it is the Crown’s will and if it is the will for me to do something there at the prison or elsewhere that is what will be done.”
Just before she was taken away by police officers, attorneys in the well of the court approached her while others stood on the balcony section looking down.
Taking in their reactions to her situation she stood and addressed them.
“I do not want anyone shedding a tear . . . . Do not make this make you cynical.
“I maintain my faith in God. This will not shatter my faith at no time. In fact it will make my faith stronger, you understand? So I don’t want any attorney up there [the balcony] crying, I don’t want to see any attorney down here crying either, good?” she said to some laughter, moments after she handed her belongings to her sister who was present for today’s sitting.
Any lawyer representing his or herself does not need some one seeking publicity for their own personal gratification jumping into the proceedings at the last minute to give a text book character reference as to why such a lawyer should not be remanded at her majesty’s pleasure. Possibly more harm than good was done by such intervention.