SLAP ON WRIST
By LAUREL V WILLIAMS Tuesday, February 26 2013
HAVING been convicted last year of assaulting four persons outside a Port-of-Spain nightclub in 2007 and for using obscene language, soca superstar Machel Montano got a virtual “slap on the wrist” when he was fined $13,700.
The punishment was handed down by Port-of-Spain Magistrate Maureen Baboolal-Gafoor yesterday after sentencing was on Thursday January 17, postponed to yesterday, which allowed Montano freedom to compete and win millions of dollars in several competitions during the Carnival season.
As he emerged from the courthouse yesterday, a smiling Montano gave the thumbs up and said he was moving forward as he has a legacy to carry on.
Baboolal-Gafoor was supposed to have delivered the sentence at ten o’clock yesterday morning but the case was stood down to 1 pm as the magistrate, like so many other commuters, got caught up in massive early morning traffic gridlock caused by a fiery protest by Sea Lots residents who blocked the Beetham Highway as they called for swift justice against a policeman whose car crashed into and killed a Sea Lots woman and her two children on Sunday.
Baboolal-Gafoor also ordered Montano — the Groovy Soca Monarch and joint Soca Monarch — to pay a total of $13,500 in compensation to the four assault victims. She warned that failure to pay the fine and compensation on or before next week Thursday (March 7) would result in Montano serving two years in prison.
The magistrate reprimanded and discharged Montano of the only non-violent charge from the incident — that of using obscene language. She also fined songwriter Kernel Roberts, who was charged with two counts of assault arising out of the same incident, $13,000 and ordered him to pay $11,000 compensation to two assault victims.
Wearing a broad grin as he stood next to Roberts outside the courthouse yesterday, Montano said: “Our work is not done, we have work to do. We have legacies to carry on and we have fans and people who are depending on us. We have a lot of people working under us, so we are not going to turn our backs on anything . We are moving forward and putting this behind us and going with full confidence in the Lord.”
The case was first called yesterday in the Seventh Court before Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers- Caesar who informed the packed public gallery that the resident magistrate (Baboolal-Gafoor) was late due to traffic. The matter was then stood down.
When the case was recalled shortly after 1 pm, police had to shut close the doors of the courtroom as persons, most of them supporters and family, tried to get inside.
Montanto was last December, found guilty of assaulting Gerard Bowrin, Brandis Browne, Janelle Lee Chee and Russell Pollonais at the Zen nightclub in Port-of-Spain on April 26, 2007. The court had also found Montano guilty of using obscene language.
Roberts, son of the late calypso legend Aldwyn “Kitchener” Roberts, was found guilty of assaulting Brown and Pollonais. Two other artistes, Joel “Zan” Feveck (a member of Montano’s HD Family) and Rodney “Benjai” Le Blanc were found not guilty of charges laid against them arising from the same nightclub brawl.
Baboolal-Gafoor yesterday noted that at any point during the incident, Montano and Roberts could have taken advantage of the club’s VIP car park and left. She noted that this was not done. In passing sentence on Montano, Baboolal-Gafoor said she took into consideration his previous good character. She added that there were several testimonials presented to the court attesting to Montano’s “good character” and contribution to society.
On the offence against Bowrin, Montano was fined $300 and $1,000 in compensation. For the offence against Lee Chee, Montano was fined $400 and $1,500 in compensation. Montano was fined $3,000 in the case with Brown and $3,000 in compensation. He was also fined $10,000 and ordered to pay $8,000 in compensation to Pollonais.
Baboolal-Gafoor fined Roberts $10,000 and $3,000 to cover his two charges with $3,000 and $8 000 in compensation to the victims. On being told of the figures they would have to pay in fines and compensation, both Montano and Roberts smiled in court, before they left.
Asked if he would make a public apology to the victims, Montano declined to comment and ended the interview. Later in the evening, Montano took to his Twitter page and expressed approval of the punishment and said he was happy the case is over.