By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
WHEN police brought Cordell Evans from Eleuthera to New Providence in a boat last month, the 20-year-old bumped his head during the ride and suffered a seizure so severe his friend began to cry, thinking he would die at sea.
Since arriving to the capital after they were arrested for alleged marijuana possession, life for the friends has been as rough as the seas they traversed to get here.
Mr Evans said he pleaded guilty to marijuana possession stemming from an incident earlier this year and was put on probation. Johnross Mins, 20, pled guilty to marijuana possession for the incident that prompted their arrest and was fined $300. Calvin Bain, 37, was completely discharged and faced no penalties.
The men were brought to New Providence without clothes, hygiene products, money or identification cards and have been on a rollercoaster battle to get back to Eleuthera while temporarily living in a tyre shop.
Since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, authorities have been scrutinised over their enforcement of Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ restrictive orders. Although the trio from Eleuthera were not charged with breaking curfew, they say their conundrum is an example of authorities being inhumane during the pandemic. At a time when Dr Minnis has vowed to decriminalise possession of small amounts of marijuana, the men have been left stuck in New Providence for small marijuana possession while inter-island travel has been halted.
Domestic travel is set to resume on Monday.
“I is a man 37,” Mr Bain said. “The last time I shed tears was 2005 at my mother funeral but I been sitting down crying because I don’t know where my next meal coming from. They bring us over here and leave us stranded (sic).”
Ian Cargill, lawyer for Mr Bain, said the men are not alone in their predicament. He said he has had clients from Bimini and others from Eleuthera who have suffered similarly.
“Some don’t have family here, no place to stay and they won’t let them go back to their island,” he said this week. “The police should have given these people police bail and wait for a magistrate to come to their islands and even if you bring them over to face charges, you should find some way to get them back home. What are they supposed to do now, walk the streets? “The same way you brought them, why don’t you take them back that way?”
Mr Bain said police tried to charge the men with intent to supply the drugs but the magistrate went forward only with the possession charge.
Police Commissioner Paul Rolle suggested yesterday possession with intent to supply is among the matters for which police cannot give suspects police bail, adding that the choice is to either keep suspects in custody on their islands or bring them to New Providence. He did not say what becomes of the suspects when their hearings end and they are released without a jail sentence. Until recently, inter-island travel has been banned in the country. Next week Monday such travel will resume without the need for a COVID-19 travel card.
“When we first started the lockdown, we had a circuit magistrate that is responsible for formally going to the Family Islands to do arraignments and trials with matters like that,” Commissioner Rolle said. “In some cases, we’ve had to send a boat or a plane to pick up suspects. That’s the disadvantage I acknowledge with the system, a lot of offenders you can’t give them bail so until that is changed they have to be brought to face their charges. We’ve been giving some of them bail, some up until July. We had people in Freeport we couldn’t give bail to so they were in the station for 12 days and we had to send a defence force boat to get them.”
For his part, Mr Bain said: “Our family members didn’t even know we were taken off the island. When we were in the Rocksound Police Station in Eleuthera, our family called and police told them they suppose to come before 4pm and sign the bail for us but before 4pm even came they took us out and carried us to North Eleuthera and put us on a boat.
“We left Eleuthera right before nightfall. The experience was life threatening. My friend had five seizures on the boat in my lap. Me and my other friend had to help another officer lift him off the boat when we reached. They bring us here with nothing, no bags, no toothbrush, no soap, no nothing.”
Mr Evans said after the difficult journey, he woke up in a hospital shackled to the bed. “They then took me to the Central Police Station where my friends were,” he said. “I still had on my hospital gown and everything was still stitched to me. At one point a woman officer came and insulted me, she was like, ‘young lady what happen to you?’ Eventually they took Johnross and Calvin to court but they told me stay there. Then an officer came and forced me to wear one of the other cellmate’s clothes because they didn’t want the magistrate to see me like that.”
To eat, Mr Bain said the trio have had to beg people.
“With people hearing our story, giving us something here and there, that’s how we eat,” he said. “My sister brings groceries every other day but it’s tough. Johnross has two young children, a nine-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter, back home. His girlfriend ain’ working and he is the breadwinner of the family. Because he here, he can’t provide for them. They have to see what they could get from people on the island. Every other day he children calling the phone telling him ‘Daddy we miss you, when you coming home.’”