With no evidence, a judge finds Brandon Lovo and Glen Slate guilty for journlist Gahona’s death
“The Public Ministry was not able to prove the accusations”, says the defense lawyer; the assassination of the journalist continues in impunity.
By Maynor Salazar (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – After a marathon trial that came to an end at 9:50 at night, Sixth District Judge Ernesto Rodríguez, ruled that two young men, Brandon Lovo and Glen Slate, were guilty of the assassination of Bluefields journalist Angel Gahona. Gahona was killed on April 21st in Bluefields as he covered the initial protests against reforms to Nicaragua’s Social Security system.
Along with declaring them guilty of murder, the judge also ruled against the young men for attempted murder of a police officer Carlos Anselmo, illegal possession of firearms, and exposing people to danger.
Defense lawyers Amy García and Maynor Curtis had asked Judge Rodríguez to issue a verdict of “not guilty” based on reasonable doubt as they held that the state “at no time” was able to demonstrate that Lovo and Slate had any responsibility for Gahona’s death.
Nevertheless, the government’s Public Ministry asked for the maximum sentence for each crime: 25, 20, 1 and 2 years for each crime respectively.
Evidence presented does not demonstrate guilt
“The government could not prove the accusations, thus creating more than a reasonable doubt as to the guilt or criminal responsibility of the accused. The prosecution brought up many witnesses, but not one of them was at the scene of the crime or saw Brandon, or anyone else, shoot, nor did they see Glen hand over a weapon to Brandon”, stated Curtis.
As recounted by the prosecution, the bullet that killed Gahona was traveling towards the south, not the north, and the shooter was located about 1.5 meters from the east side of the Bacu discotheque – in other words, at the back of the nightclub.
Curtis argued that the video and eyewitness evidence presented to the jury showed that the shot came from the Bacu discotheque towards the Mayor’s office – in other words, from south to north, rather than north to south, as claimed by the prosecution.
According to the defense, accepting the government’s version of facts as true would put the shooter behind the discotheque – and there was nobody there at the time of the crime
“This inconsistency on the part of prosecution cannot be changed and, truthfully, I don’t know how they will be able to rectify this error”, said Curtis.
Another inconsistency that the defense pointed out has to do with the weapon that Brandon allegedly used against Gahona, presented by the prosecution as “overwhelming” proof that the young men were guilty.
“They had a weapon that they found in the ocean. There are no fingerprints on this weapon. They found no traces of gunpowder on Brandon’s or Glen’s hands. There is nothing that links these young men to this crime”, Curtis stated.
The sentence will be formally read out on Thursday, August 30th. The defense lawyers have already said that they will appeal the verdict.
Gahona’s Widow says Lovo and Slate are not guilty
Boanerges Fornos, attorney and legal representative for Migueliuth Sandoval, Angel Gahona’s widow, told Confidencial that she is not “in agreement with the legal decision” issued by Rodriguez.
“Ever since they chose me to represent them, Sandoval, Angel’s parents and other relatives, have stated that these young men are not responsible for the murder, and in fact point to the involvement of a police officer”, the lawyer said.
According to Fornos, Sandoval wanted a legal representative for her and her family, as they did not agree with the way the investigation was being carried out, and did not feel well represented by the government.
Fornos continued, “Sandoval told me that if they were guilty, I should show that and that if there was no evidence, then I should explain why I felt there were doubts as to their guilt. I told her that there was no proof that the young men had been involved in this, that there were doubts as to the location of the shooter, and that the line of fire did not make sense with the other evidence presented. I said that the government had made some effort in terms of the evidence it presented, but that the evidence did not prove the young men’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Fornos’ declarations did not sit well with the government, which accused him of advising the lawyers for Lovo y Slate – which Fornos denied, insisting that was not the case, and noting that his statements were supported by the statements of Gahona’s widow and relatives.
“To say that I was advising the defense simply because we agreed on certain details is a lack of respect, an abuse and strips the other lawyers of their competence. Sandoval maintains her position of not accepting the verdict, and I carried out my work without hurting anyone”, Fornos stated.