Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer
DETAILS emerged yesterday showing how, during the 2010 nationwide manhunt for then fugitive Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, the Reverend Merrick ‘Al’ Miller travelled to St Ann with associates of the now convicted drug kingpin to pick him up and transport him to the United States Embassy in Kingston.
Police Inspector Horace Forbes said Miller made the revelation during a question-and-answer session with investigators two days after Coke was captured in a sport utility vehicle along the Mandela Highway in St Catherine in 2010.
Forbes, who was one of the investigators to question Miller, was testifying in the popular clergyman’s corruption trial before the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate’s Court.
The veteran investigator, however, underscored that Miller insisted during the question-and-answer session that high-ranking members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and officials at the Embassy – whom he declined to name – were aware of his actions.
His testimony provides a behind-the-scenes look at Coke’s capture, one month after he evaded a police-military dragnet in his west Kingston stronghold of Tivoli Gardens, to execute an arrest warrant.
Coke, who was wanted in the US at the time on drug and firearm charges, has since pleaded guilty to racketeering charges and is now serving a 23-year sentence there.
CONTACTED BY ASSOCIATES
According to a witness statement provided by Forbes, which included a transcript of the question-and-answer session, the plan to take Coke to the US Embassy was set in motion on June 22, 2010, when Miller said unknown associates of the fugitive contacted him.
The police investigator said Miller indicated that he was met in Kingston by a “contact party” and instructed to leave his cell phone before departing for St Ann.
“With whom did you leave your cell phone?” one investigator queried at one stage.
“On the advice of counsel, I refrain from answering such question,” Miller had responded.
Forbes said Miller indicated that he arrived in St Ann shortly after 1 o’clock on June 22, 2010, and was given a white Toyota Rav4 to drive, but he gave little information when investigators quizzed him about the owner of the vehicle and the identity of his contacts.
“Where were you when you got the instructions to drive the vehicle?” Miller was asked.
“In the St Ann area,” he replied.
“What part of St Ann?” investigators pressed.
“I don’t wish to answer that question,” he replied.
“What is the reason?” they continued.
“Because of my pastoral responsibility that requires trust and confidentiality to be placed in me, which I will not betray, as it is central to my function,” he again replied.
QUESTIONS ABOUT VEHICLE
“At the time you were asked to drive [the Rav4], did you ask who the owner [of the vehicle] might be?” Miller was asked.
“No,” he replied.
“Did you care that it might have been a stolen vehicle?” investigators pressed.
“Yes, I would have cared, but I did not think about that at the time as I was on a particular mission, which was my focus at the time,” the clergyman responded.
According to Forbes’ witness statement, Miller indicated that by 2:30 p.m., he had picked up Coke and they began the trip to the US Embassy via Moneague, Mount Rosser, Bog Walk and Spanish Town.
He said investigators questioned whether Miller was aware of some of the police stations along the route, and the clergyman acknowledged that he was aware of some.
Forbes said Miller told investigators that he tried to persuade Coke to surrender to the Jamaican police, but the former Tivoli Gardens strongman was adamant that he wanted to go to the US Embassy.
“Did you make contact with anyone at the [police] commissioner’s office or the US Embassy re the surrender of Christopher Coke?” the popular pastor was asked.
“Yes, contact was made with both offices. I personally made contact with the US Embassy, but I am not prepared to give any names at this time. In the case of the commissioner’s office, I personally made a call seeking to locate the commissioner,” Miller responded.
Miller is on trial for attempting to pervert the course of justice. The trial is set to resume on November 18.