Imagine waking up at 4 a.m. to what sounds as if your front door is being smashed in. Imagine, armed and possibly dangerous strangers invading the sanctity of your private spaces and that these strangers are the very people you are most likely to turn to for help – the police.
This was the scene that greeted Annette Dabreo two days before SVG celebrated its 40th anniversary of Independence last October. As the mother of two hearty sons tells it, by the time she was able to respond to the loud banging sounds at her sliding glass door “six police with gun and flashlights down in my child face, surround his bed and only talking bout ‘weh yo passport, weh yo ID, weh yo phone?”
Imagine too, your house is being torn apart in search of supposed “gun and ammunitions” but no warrant is being offered. Two jeeps load of armed policemen refusing to answer any questions put to them – not merely in your yard but in your house at 4:30 a.m. It is little wonder that Annette Dabreo, prone to fluctuating ‘blood pressure’, reports she suffered a panic attack such that she was forced to vacate her premises to better control her breathing.
Dabreo recalls one of the few references to any purported reason for the police’s invasion of her home, at the time of her son’s early morning arrest, as being the police’s assertion that Anlee wanted “free money” for which he did not want to work. That coupled with the photo that was being passed off as the 24 years old construction worker.
She described the officers as being “rude and out of place” particularly when one deigned to respond to her unceasing queries as to the reasons behind the police home invasion. She said all she got from him was a “me nah know/nah ask me nutten” styled response. Dabreo estimates that the illegal search of her home took at least one half of an hour and entailed officers trudging “in and out” of her residence.
At about this point, she again approximated, one of the jeeps left her premises, loaded with officers. She said “they spend over an hour because they left here like some minutes to 5 and came back after 6 with Bolo” [a.k.a. Hyah Browne], in handcuffs.
Now, she said, an officer instructed Anlee to change his clothes and someone mentioned the he was involved in a robbery. Dabreo further recounted, “I have an older son name Zandy. The police took his phone and walk with it like if its Anlee own and they walk with Anlee too.”
On December 13 2019 annsvg.com published its “‘Free up the Men’ Lawyer Declares” article. It chronicled long-time defense attorney Grant Connell’s demand that two young men from rural St. Vincent be set free by local law enforcement agencies. Then, “the lawyer declared that the evidence against the men was tenuous and called on the authorities to have them immediately cleared.” That story details the legal manoeuvrings that went into securing the conditional freedoms of Anlee Parsons and Hyah Browne; both men from Carriere.
A portion of the facts are that Anlee Parsons and Hyah Browne were woken up – in their separate homes – by police on October 25 2019, handcuffed and later transported to a holding cell at the Central Police Station in Kingstown. They would spend hours in police custody before they even knew the reason for their arrest. Days later they would appear in Court, without legal representation and promptly remanded to Her Majesty’s Prison. They would wait there for some three weeks while Grant Connell’s bail application was being processed.
By February 24 the charges against the men were discontinued. On that day Anlee Parsons told ANN, “me ain’t understand how dem deh dis come and just tek me off my bed early – 5 o’clock in the morning, lock me up have me in Barracks for about 4 days, sleeping on plywood and thing like that. Me ain’t understand that; and then to just come and throw out the case just like that?”
The two men were arrested in connection to an armed robbery of the Grenada Union of Teachers. The theft, ANN reported, “netted EC$26,208.”
According to Crown Counsel in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions Karim Nelson, the two young Vincentians were arrested on a provisional warrant as provided for in the Fugitives Act. This provisional warrant allowed the State to detain the men while the authorities awaited the official Extradition Bundle of information that must be shared between partnering jurisdictions. Nelson told ANN that an International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) Red Notice was issued for both Browne and Parsons.
At this point ANN asked Nelson about the process through which the young men were identified in connection to the alleged crime. His response pointed to “I.D evidence” which he quickly acknowledged as possibly being “inherently unreliable” because as he said “people can look like people.”
“For me alone, if that was the only evidence they had against the men it would not have been sufficient,” the prosecutor told Asbert News Network.
He also told ANN that his Office “was of the view [that] to release the men was in the best interest of justice.” Therefore when Grant Connell applied for bail they, cognizant that the seemingly stagnated “case [could not] go on forever” given its want of supporting evidence and legal documents, “pushed for bail.”
The Extradition Bundle was not forthcoming as promised by the Grenadian authorities and with good reason it seems.
Annette Dabreo also told ANN that on Sunday 27 October investigators representing the Grenadian police service interviewed her son’s boss at the time. He was able to provide a time sheet that showed Anlee was accounted for on the construction site to which he was assigned. Subsequent checks by lawyer Grant Connell, she said, also unearthed a time sheet for Browne who was at the time employed at the Central Water and Sewage Authority. Today both men have lost their jobs as a direct result of their incarceration.
Nelson maintains that the Grenadian officials ought to have submitted their additional documentation within 1 month. This would have ensured that the process of sending Hyah and Anlee down to Grenada to answer robbery charges would have flowed as legally prescribed. To date there has been no such submissions from Grenada. In fact, as ANN understands it, in order to cause the local constabulary to act, the initial bundle of documents sent up from the Spice Isle would have contained all the available evidence on hand. What it did contain were images of two men said to be the robbers.
The crown counsel confirmed that the “tenuous” I.D evidence that was the RSVGPF’s reason for detaining the men was also “the only evidence [he was] aware of in the case.”
The affected parties alleged that one officer who lives in the village may be responsible for what may very well turn out to be Browne’s and Parsons’ wrongful imprisonment. This they claim, because that particular individual has never liked young Parsons. Annette remembers, “Black Squad [the RSVGPF’s Rapid Response Unit] slow down at my gate the night before the thing happen,” as she fingered the policewoman as the snitch who showed her fellow officers Parsons’ residence.
An ANN interview with Hyah reveals that he was “still lost about what’s going on.” Not only has he lost his job at the CWSA but to date he is yet to get back his national I.D card which he had to surrender as a condition of his bail and his cellphone which was seized on the day he was arrested.
“It’s the first time I really realize an innocent man does go ah jail for no reason, you know? And half the time if a good lawyer nuh step in they nar get no help. That’s what me realize…. Other than that, me just glad thing over and me get all that behind me back,” the 25 years old man said.
It was his mother, Daffodil Martin, who initiated contact with the venerable barrister-at-law on the day her son was whisked away to “the big jail behind Courthouse.”
Were it not for the prowess of their defense attorney both Brown and Parsons may still be languishing behind bars, a fact that escapes neither men nor Annette. “Me been round prison deh for couple weeks well anything cudda happen to me because is bare criminal an ting me bin roun’ anuh, yo know? …. Me nah no rich person to say me ah pay money for lawyer every minute but me thank God Grant Connell step in when he step in because we cudda deh roun’ prison until the case throw off or sup’n.”
Anette Dabreo submitted, “Grant Connell did a great job! He never left them up, he was always there for them like a father. He did his own investigations and he personally talked to my son’s boss.”
She remembers that on the last Court date (of which she missed none) she was making ready to enter the Courtroom when the young men exited in the direction of the Serious Offences Court stairs and informed her that the case was over. This abrupt conclusion to what was already a tornado styled whirlwind in their relatively quiet lives left the families in a tailspin.
“This can’t dead so,” Dabreo declared. “This can’t be right. I’m hurt, I am disappointed. My whole family is hurt. It is painful. I don’t want anybody else to ever experience this. We traumatized and nobody apologized. I can’t leave it like that. Anywhere my son go and show his I.D card it’s going to pin on him. They treated my child like he’s a criminal and disrespect me in my own place. I was looking forward for Mr. Bailey to come forward and say I am sorry for arresting you. But nothing, no apology.”
Both Annette and her son, whom she explains uses his father’s surname, admit to experiencing post traumatic stress which they attribute to the ordeal stemming from Anlee’s and Hyah’s arrest. “I tell you I does cry every time I think about it. Just think about your son in prison for something he nah do. Because we poor? No we deserve better.”
Anlee also said “my name never call in nothing like that so me ain’t understand how them could just lock me up like that, you know waah mean? Me real stressed out right now.”
As for Hyah, “me is ah innocent youth and me ah tek on all that pon me mind. Me go ah place me bin never supposed to go.”
Asked about potential plans to file civil claims against the State, the still audibly distraught mother said “I wish I could tell you about that. I am leaving that in Mr. Connell’s hands.” Because that interview has not yet been conducted she committed to meet with the lawyer “no later than the end of next week.”
ANN reached out to the DPP’s office trying to figure out whether any applicable laws exist that allows for some measure of voluntary State sponsored compensation in cases like these. We were advised, “while we recognize that any period of incarceration is going to be difficult on any individual, the government has no liability.”
The parents of the so-called wrongfully imprisoned Vincentians are adamant that they “would not leave it so.”
Lawyer Grant Connell is yet to comment.