Justice and Penal Issues · Local Issues

Of Machel and Mere Men

On January 17, 2013, it was announced that a man found guilty of five criminal charges would enjoy freedom for another month. Want to know why?

Because he has to defend his Soca Monarch title.

Machel Montano leaving court on December 10th 2012. (Photo courtesy the Trinidad Express)

Trinidadian music artiste Machel Montano, who was found guilty of four counts of assault and one count of using obscene language late last year (after two delays of the judge’s decision), will still get to throw his annual ‘Machel Monday’ fete and defend his crown as reigning ‘jump and wine performer of Trinidad & Tobago’.

This entire case says entire chapters about the justice system of Trinidad & Tobago. For those who don’t have an idea of the full scope of what’s happening here, allow me to simplify;

  • Machel and three friends (also popular local soca artistes) get arrested for a fight outside the ‘world-famous Zen nightclub’ in April 2007. It takes 5 whole years for their case to finally see a courtroom.
  • Rumor has it that Machel was gonna throw some money at the problem by way of a hefty settlement, but the plaintiffs decided to let justice prevail (considering Machel kinda has at least $2Mill. to burn, I doubt the story, but it says a lot about what we imagine to happen at times like this.
  • Machel, while court proceedings were underway, with a maximum 5-year jail sentence staring him in the face, still told fans that he will be performing as planned in 2013. This was before he was even found guilty. I repeat, he was found guilty. And he still stuck to his word, registering for Soca Monarch and organizing his ‘Machel Monday’.
  • It’s worth saying again that the Magistrate that presided over his case delayed the verdict twice, finally finding him guilty on December 10. The attorneys defending him and Rodney ‘Benjai’ LeBlanc made pleas of leniency that were to be heard on January 17.
  • And finally, on January 17, apparently those pleas for Machel and Benjai to fete as normal were so powerful that the judge had no choice but to be sympathetic. Now the two guilty parties won’t be sentenced until January 25th, weeks after Carnival. By then he’d already counted his winnings, made a couple interviews and still have a week for his lawyer to find another way out of this.
  • It’s also noteworthy that the lawyers for the two men made pleas for community service for more than one count of assaulting another person. For most Trinbagonians, December 10th was the first time we knew that a person could serve community service in the twin island state. These two men might very well get that chance, given all the ‘understanding’ the court has offered so far.

Now, I know there are a lot of fans out there that don’t want their entertainer to see the inside of a jail cell. To be honest, I’m not even a fan of the prison system that we have in T&T. But here, a man with lots of money and fame gets to take what he wants from them system that’s supposed to provide people with justice and fairness. If me and three of my friends beat some poor guy up in a club, I would’ve already been in jail.

Remember that the next time you listening to this song…

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