- Advertisement -
An usual situation has arisen regarding the uninanimous 12-person jury verdict in the drug-trafficking trial of former BVI premier Andrew Alturo Fahie, reports the Miami Herald.
Minutes after 12 Miami federal jurors agreed to convict a former British Virgin Islands premier of a drug-trafficking conspiracy, two of them contacted the judge to tell her they really didn’t share the views of the other panelists and changed their minds about the defendant’s guilt.
But it was already too late to change their minds.
U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams had already polled each of the 12 jurors on their unanimous verdicts and discharged them after each said Thursday that Andrew Fahie was guilty of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States and three related money laundering and racketeering charges.
Now Williams, federal prosecutors and Fahie’s defense attorneys find themselves grappling with an extremely rare, if not unprecedented, legal question: If the jurors were already polled and discharged, can the judge bring them back into court and re-poll them on their trial verdicts?
Historically, in South Florida and other regions of the country, the answer would be no — unless there was some “external pressure” put on the jurors by outsiders or someone on the jury made racist comments about the defendant, Fahie, who is Black. There doesn’t appear to be any evidence of either in the case. Further complicating matters: There are severe restrictions under the Constitution as to how much a judge, prosecutors and defense lawyers can inquire about a jury’s deliberations.
“I’ve looked at all the other cases and, unsurprisingly, there’s none with this exact scenario,” Williams told both sides during an unusual post-verdict hearing in Miami federal court on Monday. “I have extremely limited avenues to explore.”
Federal prosecutors argued that the judge must stick to the four unanimous guilty verdicts by the 12 jurors because they have been discharged of their duties — unless there has been a “mistake” on the verdict form.
“I don’t think there’s a mistake on the verdict form,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Gerarde, who argued that “it doesn’t matter” at this point if two of the jurors didn’t agree with the other 10 because they were polled in court and discharged from their duties.
Fahie’s main defense lawyer, Theresa Van Vliet, acknowledged that she has been unable to find any case that is “spot on” with the post-verdict scenario of her client’s trial, but she urged the judge to poll the two jurors in question, if not all 12.
“We’re not suggesting some free-wheeling inquiry,” Van Vliet told the judge, pointing out that Fahie faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years up to life on the main cocaine-import conspiracy conviction. “All we’re asking is for those two jurors to be brought in and be polled [again].”
Van Vliet also threw a curve ball into the proceeding when she disclosed that one of the two jurors had left a voice mail message on her law firm’s phone. She said that neither she nor Fahie’s second attorney, Joyce Delgado, listened to the recording.
After some discussion, Judge Williams proposed that both sides listen to the voice-mail recording privately and report back to her.
Williams ordered both sides to file motions by this Thursday to address the unique legal problem and suggest possible solutions. Ultimately, the judge could let the verdicts stand or declare a mistrial, requiring Fahie to face another trial with a different jury.
Last Thursday, the federal jury found Fahie guilty of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States along with three related money laundering and racketeering charges after a two-week trial. Jurors deliberated for only four hours before reaching their decision on the former British Virgin Islands premier.
Fahie was arrested in April 2022 in Miami following a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sting operation. He was free on a bond and living with his daughter before trial, but after his conviction at trial he was ordered held at the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami. His sentencing is set for April 29 before Judge Williams.
The U.S. government made its cocaine-smuggling case against the former British Virgin Island’s premier by casting a confidential informant as the Mexican cartel trafficker. The informant, who went by the name “Roberto,” collected hundreds of recorded conversations and text messages with BVI premier Andrew Fahie while they discussed million-dollar bribery payments for access to the British territory, prosecutors said.
Fahie agreed to let thousands of kilos of cocaine pass through his ports to be sold in the United States because of his “greed, arrogance and corruption,” prosecutors added, claiming Fahie needed the bribery payments to build a waterfront mansion in the British Virgin Islands.
“He is all in — he has no reluctance and no hesitation,” Gerarde, the prosecutor, told jurors during closing arguments.
Fahie’s defense team argued that he had no intention of using his power to enrich himself on cocaine shipments to the United States. Rather, his lawyers argued that he was “framed” by the United Kingdom, which controls the BVI archipelago as an overseas territory.
Nonetheless, the trial evidence revealed that the sting operation was directed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, not the British government. At the time of the DEA sting, the U.K. government was concluding a corruption investigation of Fahie’s administration — but British authorities noted it was not related to the DEA’s sting.
Fahie’s political career crashed when he and BVI’s port director, Oleanvine Pickering Maynard, were visiting Miami for a cruise convention. During their visit, they were lured to a Miami airport to check on a $700,000 payment that was promised to them by the DEA informant pretending to be a member of the Sinaloa cartel.
The sting culminated with the arrests of Fahie and Maynard, 61, leading to an indictment charging them with conspiring to import cocaine and engage in money laundering, along with attempted money laundering and racketeering. Maynard’s son, Kadeem Stephan Maynard, 32, was also arrested in the Caribbean, brought to Miami and added as the third defendant.
After his arrest, Fahie was stripped of his official position as BVI’s premier, which he held from February 2019 to early May 2022.
Source: Jay Weaver, Miami Herald. Jay Weaver writes about federal crime at the crossroads of South Florida and Latin America. Since joining the Miami Herald in 1999, he’s covered the federal courts nonstop, from Elian’s custody battle to A-Rod’s steroid abuse. He was part of the Herald team that won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news on Elian’s seizure by federal agents. He and three Herald colleagues were 2019 Pulitzer Prize finalists for explanatory reporting for a series on gold smuggling between South America and Miami.