Police clerk ‘pulled’ 79 parking tickets
A Bermuda Police clerk abused her position to cancel 79 parking tickets.She was bailed after her initial arrest but apprehended for a second time in October 2010 at the airport, as she attempted to leave for America.
Jahmeeka Wilson pulled nine tickets for her sister and 70 more for other people, Magistrates’ Court heard yesterday.
She was arrested and bailed by detectives investigating the crime, but they later caught her at the airport trying to leave the Island.
Wilson initially denied the allegations and went on trial yesterday at Magistrates’ Court the same establishment where she used to work.
Police Sergeant Paul Ridley presented evidence of e-mails and text messages illustrating how she pulled parking tickets in exchange for cash.
However, the trial was aborted after a morning of evidence, when Wilson admitted some of the charges she faced, and prosecutor Cindy Clarke opted not to proceed with others.
The first witness in the case against Wilson, 27, of Mount Hill, Pembroke, was Inspector Stephen Cosham, who is in charge of the Court Liaison Unit. He explained that Ms Wilson had worked as data input clerk since September 2009.
Her primary function was to input parking tickets into the computer system. Insp Cosham said data input clerks are not allowed to withdraw parking tickets from the system.
Detective Sergeant Ridley was one of two officers who arrested Wilson outside Magistrates’ Court in July last year on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.
Det Sgt Ridley obtained records for Wilson’s cell phone and e-mail account, plus records of all the parking tickets she had withdrawn from the court records system, which totalled 79.
Nine tickets were for a green Peugeot car registered to Wilson’s sister Akilah Wilson who works at the Bermuda Monetary Authority.
When defence lawyer Marc Daniels quizzed Det Sgt Ridley over other names on the list, he confirmed the owner of one vehicle with a cancelled ticket was listed as “Bermuda Police.”
Another was listed as “Department of Corrections”. Another was in the name Quanae Tuzo, who is a police officer. Another was in the name of Bryletha Williams, a member of police staff.
Mr Daniels had earlier suggested to Insp Cosham that there was an “informal policy” within the police service where parking tickets get cancelled if officers get them on their private vehicles while attending court.
Insp Cosham said only a police inspector or above could authorise that, not a data inputter like Wilson.
Det Sgt Ridley also read extracts from voice messages that Wilson recorded on her cell phone and sent to another, unnamed party, via the BlackBerry Messenger service.
In one of them, Wilson said: “I can only get rid of parking tickets and moving violation tickets, the ones that the police write you, but you can’t tell anyone I told you. But I don’t know if I can rid you of a fine you know. That’s hard to do.”
Prosecutor Ms Clarke further alleged that Wilson abused her position to cancel warrants for arrest, which can only be cancelled by a Magistrate.
Det Con Ridley said a warrant against Wilson’s sister Akilah for having illegal tint on her car windows was shown as cancelled in the court system.
Another cancelled warrant related to the defendant’s boyfriend, Derrick Hill, 29, for a traffic incident. Det Sgt Ridley also read a text message that Hill sent Wilson in June 2010.
It read: “Dutty needs a speeding ticket pulled.” She replied “OK.” Hill then texted: “He got cash.” To which Wilson responded: “OK, get it from him.” Hill later texted her saying: “Got more tickets. Can you do those too?”
He explained they were for speeding, failing to use due care and attention and failing to stop. Wilson texted: “Ya, I can, but they got to pay me.”
Hill was charged with defrauding the Government by preventing the collection of revenue, to which he pleaded guilty before his girlfriend’s trial began.
A police constable, Kevin Cabral, 51, was charged with perverting the course of justice. However, Ms Clarke offered no evidence against him during a court hearing last month.
During Det Sgt Ridley’s evidence against Wilson, he read text messages between her and Pc Cabral that were sent in September 2010. In them, Wilson talked about holding on to some tickets issued to a person named Jonathan Grant for having no license and insurance for a jet ski, because she’d not seen Pc Cabral.
Pc Cabral replied by saying “the Chief” had put out an e-mail about this, and asked if the man was well known. Wilson said he was not.
Defence lawyer Mr Daniels suggested a text message Pc Cabral sent to an unnamed individual telling them “don’t worry about the parking ticket,” suggests a dialogue about pulling tickets.
Det Sgt Ridley said there was no mention of a ticket actually being pulled, and that Pc Cabral was saying tickets are not processed. Mr Daniels went on to read messages where Pc Cabral said tickets are shredded if someone wants to “give someone a break”.
Det Sgt Ridley replied: “That’s what’s written. I’m unable to expand upon that.”
Pc Cabral was due to give evidence for the prosecution against Wilson yesterday, but she pleaded guilty before he could do so.
She admitted conspiring to defraud the Government of Bermuda by preventing the collection of revenue, and to official corruption by entering false information into the criminal justice information system about parking tickets.
She denied perverting the course of justice by preventing the issuing and enforcement of arrest warrants and official corruption by entering false information into the system about arrest warrants and financial penalties.
The Royal Gazette understands that Wilson has not been fired from her job, as her employment as a civilian member of police support staff is governed by the Bermuda Public Services Union collective agreement. That means the head of the Civil Service must now be consulted about her future employment status.
She has, however, been removed from her duties dealing with parking tickets.
Pc Cabral has been suspended from his job for around nine months as a result of the court case.
The Royal Gazette understands he will remain suspended until a disciplinary investigation is completed.
Wilson and Hill will be sentenced at a later date, and Acting Magistrate Graveney Bannister bailed them both in the meantime.
Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva said after the hearing: “Now that the criminal case has drawn to a close, an associated internal discipline investigation can be completed. Accordingly, it is not appropriate to say much more at this point, other than this conviction should serve as an example of the fate that awaits dishonest staff in the police service. In this case the mechanisms we are putting in place to detect corruption worked exactly as they are intended to.”