Paolo Freed on Treason Charges

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Rtd. Major Alfred Paolo Conteh

By Feima Sesay

Palo Conteh Sahr Anthony Sinnah and Prince George Hughes were acquitted and discharged on count 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,12,13,14,15,&16.  However, Paolo Conteh was convicted on count 10&11 for possession of firearms and concealing a greater number of weapons in 12 months each. Total 24 months. 2nd&3rd accused were acquitted and discharged. The panel of jurors returned with a verdict of not guilty on the offense of treason, aiding and abetting, making false statements on oath and perjury. Even though Joseph F Kamara in his plea mitigation pleaded for a non-custodial sentence but a fine, justice Momoh Jah Stevens in his ruling sentenced Alfred Paola Conteh to 12 months on count 10 and also 12 months on count 11.

Prior to this judgment, the Learned Judge, Justice Momoh Jah Stevens while reading the entire evidence in summing up that contains 64 pages define treason as the crime of betraying one country by attempting to kill a president or overthrow a government and that the burden of proof lies on the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. He added that if a person is proven guilty upon conviction is liable to death, adding that the offense must be committed in SL. According to him the mere preparation and endeavor to carry out the offense is very dangerous if caught and punishable by law.  He noted further that preparation and endeavor as stated in counts 1&2 which is treason are two separate and distinct acts. He explained further that one can prepare without endeavoring, adding that endeavoring is the process of putting into effect what a person has planned. He referred to the case of the state against Fornah and 14 others and that of Lansana and 11 others. The learned judge said that count 1&2 carry the same penalty of death and that the end result is to seek the consent of the president. While she was addressing the issue of the Overt Act not mentioned in the indictment it was not mentioned because there is no need for an Overt Act to be laid in the indictment. He described an Overt Act to the jurors as something that is plain, open to view, and therefore a treasonable intention is not punishable by law unless it is manifested by an overt act. Justice Stevens urged the jurors to look at the evidence of prosecution witnesses No.1,2,4,5&6 that say that Alfred Paola Conteh was in possession of a weapon, taking a loaded gun to state house, failing to declare the said gun at the gate and going to a high profile meeting with the president without a book or pen. According to him this evidence has already indicted him but said the decision to find first accused guilty lies with the jurors as they are judges of fact. He said they must also consider the fact of the evidence adduced in court and ask themselves if the action of the accused was a mission or intention to kill the president when given a verdict. ” In my legal view, if an individual killed a president it is treason and not murder and my description of a public place is an indoor or outdoor area whether Private or public ownership to which the public can access by right or by invitation, in my view statehouse is a public place “, he said. He also urged the jurors in his summing up to ignore counts 7&9 as he said there was no law cited in the indictment which is a default on the prosecution’s side but said counts 10 should be properly looked at as the accused Alfred Paolo Conteh made a confessional statement that he was in possession of the Gluck 17 pistol. According to law, one cannot possess two weapons for even a second and that the mere confession is a crime. In conclusion, his role in summing up is just to give the jurors direction on the law but the decision to prove the accused persons guilty or not of all the allegations lies with the jurors. At the conclusion of the summing up address to the jurors, they retired to their room and later returned at around 7:19 with a unanimous decision. The  Foreman returned with a verdict of the first accused Alfred Paola Conteh not guilty on counts 1,2&3 which is treason and the remaining counts 5,6,7,8,9,14,15&16. But he was however found guilty on counts 10&11 which is being found in a public place with a loaded gun and concealing a greater number of ammunitions. Whiles second accused Sahr Anthony Sinnah was acquitted and discharged on counts 4  aiding and abetting and 12 abetting the commission of an offense for which he was jointly charged with Prince George Hughes. The 3rd accused Prince George Hughes was also acquitted and discharged on 13 for making false statements on oath.  Lawyer Joseph F. Kamara in his plea mitigation for Alfred Paolo Conteh pleaded with the judge for a non-custodial sentence but a fine that they are ready to pay on the grounds that his client has already served in solitary confinement for the past 3 months.  He also pleaded with the judge to temper justice with Mercy as he said he is a first time offender who has served his country diligently as military personnel and rose to the rank of major and as minister of defense and internal affairs. Justice Momoh Jah Stevens having listened to the plea mitigation sentence Alfred Paolo Conteh to two years imprisonment for both counts. 12 months each for counts 10&11. Justice Momoh Jah Stevens thanked the jurors, prosecution team, and defense team for the accused noting that he continues to do justice. However, the treason trial against all the accused persons commenced this year May 29, and came to conclusion on Wednesday 1st July 2020.

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