The Comedy of “Republic of Liberia by & thru Fomba Sirleaf”
March 23, 2014 - Isaac Vah Tukpah, Jr.
The Government of Liberia through its Private Prosecutor, Fomba Sirleaf and a suspect Magistrate, Nelson Chineh have brought a triplets of trumped up charges against Mr. Henry Costa. The writ reads:
"…defendant being there and then with malice and wicked intent, purposely did threaten the life of the said private prosecutor using against him death threats to harm and kill him, and that in the same vein the said defendant on the Costa show on Radio Hott FM did make a statement challenging the National Security Agency (NSA) Head, Fomba Sirleaf, who is the private prosecutor to engage him in a public fight wherein he defendant threatened to fight the private prosecutor to death with the intent to terrorize the said private prosecutor and subject him to fear and public ridicule.
The alleged act of the defendant being unlawful, wicked, and intentional is in violation of section 11.116 of the New Act amending section 14.24 of the New Penal Law, 14.25 & 14.27 of the New Penal Law of Liberia there and then crimes herein the defendant did do and commit."
I know some questioned the use of ‘by and thru Private Prosecutor’ but there is precedence for the use of Private Prosecutor in the Liberian court system. I will refer readers to two specific cases where similar language has beenused:
- the case of the “Republic of Liberia by and thru Verona Wilson, private prosecutrix” http://www.news.heritageliberia.net/index.php/inside-heritage/legal-matters/2317-clergyman-others-arrested-for-terroristic-threat-others
- case, the Republic of Liberia by and thru Stephen C. Clarke (Curator), who is the Plaintiff, is prosecuting one Michael U. Roberts (defendant) for the crimes of Forgery and Tampering with Public Records. http://allafrica.com/stories/201309232244.html
Since we do not know enough to prove otherwise, we will accept that it’s allowable under our law to have a private prosecutor or prosecutrix.
On the issue of “section 11.116 of the New Act amending section 14.24 of the New Penal Law,” we can find no source which details what the new Section 11.116 is. Based on extensive online search, we came across a reference to “Section 11.16 of the New Act” in the case referenced above in #1. Notwithstanding, for the sake of sharing our thoughts, we are presuming that Section 14.24. Terroristic threats, of the Penal Law did not change drastically from what it was before the “New Act.”: “§ 14.24. Terroristic threats. A person is guilty of a felony of the third degree if he threatens to commit any crime of violence with the purpose to terrorize another or to cause evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transportation, or otherwise to cause serious public inconvenience, or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience.”
Analyzing each charge individually, we wonder what was the medium Costa used to issue death threats to harm and kill the Private Prosecutor and Director of the National Security Agency of Liberia, Fomba? Let’s even assume he actually made those threats, can he really enforce them or can he really terrorize the Director of NSA, head of a truly feared security agency? On the issue of Menacing, where did Costa menace “imminent serious bodily harm” as required by law? Where is Criminal coercion as defined by law? According to the law, “A person is guilty of criminal coercion if, with the purpose unlawfully to compel another to engage in or refrain from conduct, he threatens to:
- Commit any criminal offense; or
- Accuse anyone of a criminal offense; or
- Expose any secret or publicize an asserted fact tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or to impair his credit or business repute.”
When did Costa use threats to commit a crime, accuse Fomba or anyone of a crime, or expose any secret or facts about Fomba that would “compel” Fomba to “engage in or refrain from conduct?” For Magistrate Nelson Chineh, an already well known corrupt Magistrate, to engage in such a charade, I consider it serious mockery of our justice system and devaluing the judicial system. I believe he needs to be fired or impeached from his position.
Even if we admit a lack of understanding of the law and all these seemingly bogus charges can be legitimized with legalese, we take serious umbrage with the bail setting process and the denial of Mr. Costa rights by Magistrate Nelson Chineh. According to the Criminal Procedure Law - Title 2 - Liberian Code of Laws Revised Section § 13.1. Right to bail, #2. Offenses less than capital. “Any person charged with the commission of an offense not capital shall be entitled as of right to be admitted to bail, whether before conviction or pending appeal, and any person charged with commission of a capital offense who has been convicted of a lesser offense shall be entitled as of right to be admitted to bail pending an appeal.”
Obviously, Costa did not commit a capital offense, hence he has a right to bail under this law and buttressed by Article 21, parts (d) (i) and (d) (ii) as follows:
d) (i) All accused persons shall be bailable upon their personal recognizance or by sufficient
sureties, depending upon the gravity of the charge, unless charged for capital offenses or grave
offenses as defined by law.
(ii) Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor excessive punishment
In this case, our Honorable Corrupt Magistrate Chineh has violated both clauses.
According to the same Code of Laws, Section § 13.2. Amount of bail, “The amount bail in any criminal action in which restitution is required shall be equal to the amount of the maximum fine which may be imposed upon conviction of the offense charged. If the offense charged is punishable by imprisonment, the maximum number of months of imprisonment which may be imposed shall be multiplied by twenty-five dollars to determine the amount of bail. If the offense charged is punishable by both fine and imprisonment, the amount of bail shall be equal to the total of such amounts.”
By Criminal Procedure Law standards and based on the three charges levied against Costa as defined in the Penal Law - Title 26 - Liberian Code of Laws Revised, the Magistrate, Nelson Chineh has taken extensive liberties to abuse Costa rights.
Charge 1 - § 14.24. Terroristic threats – a felony of the third degree carries a maximum imprisonment of three years. Therefore, bail for Costa should be maximum $25 times 36 months (three years) = $900
Charge 2 - § 14.25. Menacing – a misdemeanor of the first degree carries a maximum imprisonment of one year. Therefore, bail for Costa should be maximum $25 times 12 months (one year) = $300
Charge 3 - § 14.27. Criminal coercion. – a misdemeanor of the first degree carries a maximum imprisonment of one year. Therefore, bail for Costa should be maximum $25 times 12 months (one year) = $300
Even if the currency is US dollars and the bail is individualized ($900 + $300 +$300), the TOTAL BAIL should have been $1,500. How can the judge set an arbitrary bail of $3,000 at first and now we are hearing $6,000? Do the judges in Liberia have their own set of Criminal and Penal codes? Where is Counselor Syrenius Cephus? Are we reading the wrong text and there is a whole new set of Revised Code of Laws somewhere?
We have to be honest that the utterances of Costa, as outrageous as people may think they are, pale in comparison with what’s said by many who work for or report directly to Madam President. The president has created a culture of sycophancy and yes wo/men as is typically done by most leaders in Liberia. The culture is exacerbated by the imposition and intimidation of her sister Jennie Bernard. Even if we assess all her appointees, we see that most of them are not worthy of the positions they hold, hence they offer no real pushback on policies or critical issues and do not have the gumption to tell the president what the truth is.
Consequently, the President is cocooned from the reality that is a backward, dysfunctional, and non-collaborative government to the extent that she is completely clueless of what’s obtaining in Liberia today. Many of the president’s yes wo/men share a lot of the thoughts Costa is brave enough to utter but because they are sycophants and cowards or afraid to be seen as biting the hand that feeds them, we only hear them on the Corkrum tapes.
In conclusion, we DEMAND that Costa be set free or that he be allowed to post bail of $1,500 in order to get his freedom. Any assault on Costa while in jail is an assault on the Liberian people. Any such action should not be accepted by any Liberian who believes in the inscription that runs down the side of the Temple of Justice which reads “Let Justice Be Done to All Men.” We demand that this government conform to the norms of free speech, free press, and FREE COSTA.