Film casts new light on prosecutor attack

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

LAVITA Thurston outfitted her home with surveillance cameras in December, three years after her daughter was killed on her front porch.

She hopes footage from those cameras will save two of her sons from prison after they were accused of attacking a prosecutor, Joel Seymour, on Sunday.

The men are expected to be arraigned in Magistrate’s Court today on a charge of “causing harm”, according to their lawyer Romona Farquharson Seymour.

Based on initial reports, the altercation appeared to be a brazen attack on the administration of justice, sending chills through the judicial community while attracting condemnation from current and former top legal officials.

It was reported Mr Seymour was attacked because of a case he prosecuted and that his assailant was a witness for the defendant in that trial.

But Mrs Thurston’s footage complicates that narrative. The video shows an altercation happened within range of her home, not yards east at K-Souse on Blue Hill Road, the takeaway shop Mr Seymour was said to have visited when the confrontation happened. In the nearly ten minute-long clip, a man, purportedly Mr Seymour, is seen charging at Mrs Thurston’s son and as he does so her younger son intervenes and punches him in the head. A senior police official confirmed the legitimacy of the video to this newspaper and said it does concern the incident involving Mr Seymour.

Contrary to initial reports, the prosecutor was never stabbed––he was only punched to his head, a senior police officer said. He required medical attention because George Rahming, 27, wore rings when he threw the punch, this newspaper was told.

The brothers voluntarily went to the Cable Beach Police Station and gave their story to the police, but they were subsequently arrested.

During interviews with The Tribune on Wednesday and Thursday, Mrs Thurston, a court interpreter, cried as she told us: “I am up this morning and I feel worse than when my daughter was killed. I can’t wrap my mind around it, how this happen to us. I haven’t eaten a good meal since Saturday.”

The family fears the brothers will not receive a fair hearing because they are going up against a prosecutor.

As proof of their point, their lawyer noted the sons are expected to be charged with causing harm under Section 266 of the Penal Code as opposed to Section 135 where they could secure bail immediately and not be remanded to prison. Once on remand, they could apply for bail, a process that could take weeks. Mrs Farquharson-Seymour said a punch should not warrant the more severe ‘causing harm’ charge.

She said the sons were taken to court on Wednesday but were later taken to the Department of Correctional Services because they could no longer be kept at a police station. She could not say why the men were not arraigned at the same time, but said that is a matter she will deal with today.

However, a police prosecutor confirmed yesterday there was an issue with the men’s charge sheet, hence they were not arraigned on Wednesday.

Mrs Thurston said it is distressing to have her sons endure the conditions of the Department of Correctional Services. “My sons in that dirty, filthy prison suffering with the same clothes they had on from Sunday night,” she said.

Mrs Thurston claimed an effort of bystanders to restrain Mr Seymour took place out of frame of the footage. The video shows people standing around looking in the easterly direction from which Mr Seymour eventually emerges. One of those seen standing around is Daltino Thurston, 30, the oldest son at the centre of the encounter. He can be seen in the clip walking back and forth, at times gesticulating in the easterly direction.

Mrs Thurston said when the commotion started, she called the police but officers did not immediately arrive and had called twice more before they eventually came. She can be seen in the video holding a phone to her ear, walking about in front of her yard.

She said responding officers made no arrests at the scene; one officer told her sons to report their side of the story at a police station, which they did minutes later, she said.

She acknowledged her video does not capture what preceded the events caught on camera, particularly the initial interaction between Mr Seymour and Mr Thurston at the takeaway shop. Residents say the shop is transformed into a club at night. Mrs Thurston said at the very least, the video should have discouraged police from pressing charges against her sons, the eldest of whom is not shown having physical contact with Mr Seymour.

“If it was civilian versus civilian, they were not gonna be charged,” she said.

She confirmed the older son testified on behalf of a defendant in an armed robbery case in which Mr Seymour was the prosecutor. However, she claimed her son did not have a strong relationship with the defendant and would never be moved to fight on his behalf.

“The defendant gave Daltino’s name as an alibi,” she said. “My son told him he don’t like courts and things like that, but he testified. They weren’t buddy, buddy like close friends from school or something. I don’t know why they making it seem like because Seymour was the prosecutor in the case my son hurt (him). Nobody even care (about the defendant).”

For his part, Mr Seymour maintained his side of the story when he spoke to The Tribune.

“Myself along with other prosecutors risk our lives everyday trying to protect the Bahamian people and yet still these same people are screaming ‘crucify him’,” he told this newspaper.