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Lawyer: Convicted pastor torn between love for church, lure of gang

The lawyer for the St Thomas pastor, the lone female found to be a member of the Clansman-One Don Gang, on Monday recommended a sentence of approximately three years, along with time already served.

The attorney’s proposal was made while asking for empathy for his client, whom he claimed has had a constant struggle between her love for the church and her desire to serve the criminal entity.

The 48-year-old pastor and businesswoman, Stephanie Cole-Christie, was found guilty of being a member of the gang and the gang’s liaison officer who would communicate with the police, provide inside information and secure lawyers and bail bond for gang members who were arrested, among other functions.

But her lawyer, Alexander Shaw, before proposing the very generous sentence which included a deduction for a little over four years that she spent in custody, tried to explain how the supposed minister found herself on the wrong path.

“I ask that notwithstanding the fact that she is the eldest gang member, the evidence unfolded here was that there were instances in which she would invite some of her friends [cronies] to church and so the question is if she was inviting them to church why wasn’t she displaying exemplar conduct?” he argued as the sentencing hearing got under way in the Home Circuit Court.

“But what is true is that there was a constant struggle because though she was a pastor at a church, she found herself a part of what I deemed a negative social group,” Shaw said. “Everyone has a struggle and unfortunately hers is one that caused her to be here.”

The mother of a teenage daughter is among 15 convicted members of the gang, including leader Andre ‘Blackman’ Bryan, who are to be sentenced by Chief Justice Bryan Sykes over the next two weeks.

The anti-gang legislation prescribed a sentence of no more than 20 years for gang membership and currently, there is no designated starting point for the offences.

But Shaw urged the judge to use a starting point of seven years in arriving at a reasonable period of imprisonment for the gangstress.

“Even now she is still in ministry, she is in the choir, she is in the kitchen and she is trying from inside the detention centre to make a good return,” he said.

He also asked the judge to consider that she has a teenage daughter and an ailing mother who requires her assistance.

Meanwhile, lawyers for several of the other gang convicts also pleaded for leniency.

Attorney-at-law Sasha-Kay Shaw, who is representing Joseph McDermott, 29, asked the judge to show mercy by imposing a sentence which to reflect the minimal role that he played in the gang.

She also asked the judge to use a seven-year starting point, noting that her client was relatively young and immature when he committed the offence and did not contemplate the seriousness of his actions.

Shaw also cited the social enquiry report in which the residents said that they did not know him to be a gangster, but had seen him in the company of other gangsters and also that he was forced into the gang after his relatives were threatened.

For his part, Lynden Wellesley urged the judge to see his client Fabian Johnson, who was also convicted of being a member of gang, as a train which has been derailed and exercise mercy in putting the train back on track.

He said the father of two is greatly affected by his separation from his children and asked the judge to ensure that “the intended separation” will not be too long.

Meanwhile, Dylon McLean, who was convicted of being a member and for two counts of facilitating the commission of a serious offence by a criminal organisation broke out in non-stop laughter after the attorney who was mitigating on his behalf shared that he suffered from a mental illness.

Attorney-at-law- law Kamisha Mitto, who was holding for Venice Brown, asked the judge to bear in mind that McLean was diagnosed with a mental illness, which he has had since he was a child.

The sentencing will resume today and Bryan, who had insisted on speaking to the court, is expected to resume his address, one which was punctuated with scriptures on Monday as he maintained his innocence and rambled on in a befuddled manner.