Liberia: Magistrate Escapes Contempt for Failure to Surrender GT Bank Manager

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Monrovia – Stipendiary Magistrate J. Kennedy Peabody of Monrovia Magisterial Court on Thursday was sent to jail after sitting on the prisoner bench for failure to adhere to a time set by Criminal Court “A” judge Roosevelt Willie to justify the absence of a defendant. But HE was later rescued when judges and lawyers pleaded for mercy on behalf of him.

Report by Bettie K. Johnson-Mbayo, [email protected]

Magistrate Peabody was asked to show why he should not be held in contempt after he failed to produce the living body of Ajodeji Bejide, the suspended Manager of the Guaranty Trust (GT) Bank accused of injuring an employee of the bank. 

On October 4, Judge Willie issued the ultimatum after summary proceeding hearing with Magistrate Peabody and that of Montserrado County Attorney, Cllr. Edwin Martin.

The summary proceeding was filed by state lawyers against Magistrate Peabody’s quest to grant Bejide medical leave to seek treatment out of the country without the acknowledgment of the prosecution, which had earlier issued the “Writ of Ne Exeat Republica” against him.

This writ is issued on individuals of interest to a case or investigation, barring said individual from leaving the country until the outcome of a case or investigation.

“By directive of his honour Roosevelt Willie, Resident Judge Presiding over the Criminal Court “A” for Montserrado County, Temple of Justice, you are hereby informed as per the revocation of the Writ of Ne Exeat Republica that you were in error to have revoked the said writ without notice to prosecution as well to allow Defendant Ajodeji Bejide excuse for medical reasons without proof of ill-health,” said Judge Willie.

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Another portion of the ruling reads: “However, since you have assured this court that Defendant Bejide will be back in three weeks, you are given the benefit of the doubt, otherwise, you will be held to produce the living body of Defendant Bejide after October 22, 2018, for so doing this shall constitute your legal and sufficient authority signed Gabriel T. Smith Clerk on behalf of the court.”

Bejide stands accused of assaulting an employee of the bank, Edward Freeman, on August 28, 2018. He allegedly threw a calculator at Freeman and its impact resulted into a cut on his lip. Both men were in a meeting at the bank’s 13th Street Office.

When contacted by this newspaper, Magistrate Peabody confirmed the report but claimed that Defendant Bejide is charged with a crime that is bailable and that a valid criminal appearance bond of US$50,000 is filed on his behalf by the Insurance Company of Africa (ICA).

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Magistrate Peabody further stated that before the court could grant the defendant the medical leave, his (Bejide’s) lawyer wrote the court officially requesting for the medical leave for his client.

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However, Magistrate Peabody felt short of saying whether the lawyer in question ever presented the court with any medical report to support their request for medical leave outside of Liberia.

“The court acted in line with the law, the crime allegedly committed by the defendant is bailable and since the case was brought to this court, the prosecution has been unable to persuade the case,” contended Magistrate Peabody. However, Montserrado County Attorney, Cllr. Martins told this newspaper that if defendant Bejide has left the country or not he was not aware and all he knows is that Bejide is on Ne Exeat Republica.

On October 25, Montserrado County Attorney Cllr. Edwin Martin informed Judge Willie that the time allotted to Magistrate Peabody.

But the ultimatum was not adhered to by magistrate Peabody, at which time Cllr. Martin informed the court that the time allotted has expired and the defendant was still out of the bailiwick of the country.

“That a hearing in the said complaint was held and your honor issued an order instructing his honor Stipendiary magistrate J. Kennedy Peabody to have the defendant appear on October 22, 2018, before your honor and this honorable court.

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“That the states inform your honor and this honorable court that the time allotted has expired and the defendant is not within the bailiwick of the country. Wherefore in view of the aforementioned, the state respectfully prays your honor to act consistently with the provisions of the law,” Cllr. Martin.

Court staffs of Criminal Court ‘A’ were asked to inform magistrate Peabody but they were told that he was in court. Bailiffs were standing at the dock while magistrate Peabody was handling a ruling as Cllr. Martin and Judge Willie awaited his arrival.

Though the decision by him is judicial and cannot be questioned, but he was held in contempt for his refusal to obey the court time situated for. 

“When we sent for him, he sent the court staff and said he was hearing a case, why if I was asked to meet any of the Associate Justices, should I send their staff back to say I’m in court, he was held in contempt for disrespecting the court,” Judge Willie explained.

Meanwhile, Magistrate Peabody has been given two weeks to produce the living body of Defendant Bejide, something Judge Willie said is to safe the negative reflection on the Judiciary.

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