Friday 17th January 2020 might have been an average day for most Vincentians but for Steve James it was the day he found out he is to be shipped back to Connecticut U.S.A to be sentenced for offences for which he was convicted. Namely: sexual assault (of a minor) in the first degree and risk of injury to a minor.
The verdict to extradite was delivered by Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne at Kingstown’s Serious Offenses Court. The proceedings included testimony from several police officers as well as the soon to be extradited former fugitive.
According to veteran cop, Assistant Superintendent of Police Simmons, James whose birth name was changed via deed poll from Gerad McCardy Jessop, committed these crimes sometime in 2008 at his Connecticut home.
The Court heard that his victim was asleep on his bed when he “inserted his left index finger into her vagina.” The child, who was awoken by the act, recognized him and the ensuing court case ran its course.
It was at the point of sentencing that James absconded and returned to his native stomping grounds at Biabou. Where, as per evidence presented, he subsequently assumed power of attorney over his mother’s estate, who was also financing her son’s new lifestyle here.
This was borne out by money transfer receipts that were recovered from Steve James’ home. In order to ascertain that the Steve James who, as fate would have it, was in police custody was one and the same with the wanted fugitive, A.S.P Simmons disclosed that several steps were taken, some of which included procuring a copy of the accused’s birth certificate and then a detailed registrant’s report after realizing that James had his name changed sometime in 2011.
Other testimonies were provided by Inspector Paul Jones whose expertise was instrumental in the analysis and comparison of fingerprints provided by the United States based authorities and the set he took from Steve James upon his September 10th 2019 arrest and Sargeant Gamal Bowens.
It was Bowens, it turned out, who first brought James’ escape from justice to the U.S authorities attention prior to A.S.P Simmons’ involvement as lead investigator. Without disclosing his source Bowens established that he was privy to James’ offenses and having sought and recieved further intelligence via the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s website, he proceeded to arrest Steve James at Little Tokyo even as he, James was at the time driving a passenger van. This culminated Bowen’s end of things which he had started sometime in 2017. James, when he was allowed to address the Court, essentially confirmed that he was in fact the subject of interest that was referred to in the bundles of documents conveyed to the Royal SVG Police Force through “diplomatic channels.”
It was also learnt that he had confessed to the arresting officer Bowens, at the time of his arrest here, his thought that the child’s mother in the U.S. was finished with the matter and requested a call to the mother. James also presented sworn affidavits to the Court from members of his family claiming that they spoke with the young victim and she admitted that she had lied. In his defence celebrated attorney Kay Bacchus-Baptiste fought valiantly to establish chain of custody issues with the supporting documents bundle which included sworn copies of the deposition, arrest warrants, statutes of limitations and more.
Of particular concern to her also was whether the extradition doctrine of speciality was satisfied. Which is “a principle of International law that is included in most extradition treaties, whereby a person who is extradited to a country to stand trial for certain criminal offenses may be tried only for those offenses and not for any other pre-extradition offenses,” according to one online source. Crown Counsel Karim Nelson dispelled that line of defence in his reminder to the Court that the Extradition Treaty signed between the U.S.A and S.V.G. makes provision to satisfy the rule of speciality.
He also pointed to the explicitly stated fact where the U.S authorities indicated they would not put James on trial for absconding. The former fugitive is currently exhausting a mandatory fifteen (15) day period to allow for habeas corpus proceedings at Her Majesty’s pleasure. During this time he may choose to legally challenge his detention and inevitable extradition at the High Court in Kingstown.
That Court would not entertain new evidence but would convene to review Chief Magistrate Browne’s descision.
Crown Counsel Nelson told ANN “We have no indications that habeas corpus would be filed.” Once the fifteen (15) days have elapsed the Governor General would affix her signature to a warrant drafted by the Crown Counsel and following that “it’s a matter of sorting out the logistics to facilitate the U.S authorities coming to pick him up,” Nelson explained.