Blyden requests community service for exposing the public to COVID-19

Senator Marvin Blyden, citing legislation passed by the Sixth Parliament in 1975, is seeking to enter a pretrial intervention program on a criminal charge of exposing the public to a highly contagious disease.

Senator Marvin Blyden (source file photo)

Blyden was arrested Sept. 24 after an investigation found he attended an event at Tillett Gardens Sept. 18 in St. Thomas despite VI Health Department orders to quarantine after testing positive for COVID -19 three days earlier.

If found guilty by a jury, Blyden faces a $200 fine and up to a year in prison, according to a press release issued by Attorney General VI Denise George at the time of his arrest. Instead, Blyden offers in a petition filed April 20 that he enter community service with My Brother’s Workshop or with the Malik Adams James Foundation, a nonprofit that works with COVID-19 relief efforts. .

According to the motion Blyden filed pro se, which means he represents himself, the attorney general’s office agreed to pre-trial intervention if he pays a fine of $5,000, to which he s ‘opposite. Superior Court Judge Kathleen Mackay had not ruled on the issue as of Tuesday.

Under the law passed in 1975, the judge, not the Crown, has jurisdiction to divert defendants to a community service program as long as they have no criminal record and have not committed of violent crime, according to Blyden’s request. The law also provides for a fine of $200.

“The only remaining requirements are that Mr. Blyden appear in court to waive the statute of limitations and his right to a speedy trial and that the court determines that Mr. Blyden would benefit from diversion and that the diversion is in the best interests of of the community”, according to the movement.

“As this is a crime that endangers the community by exposing it to a communicable disease, participation in a community program that requires direct interaction with the community is a particularly appropriate approach, as it will give Mr. Blyden the opportunity to work directly with those who have been endangered by his actions,” the motion reads.

“Furthermore, the interest of the community is served by providing such an opportunity to learn from past mistakes and grow by gaining new perspectives by meeting diverse people; something that Mr. Blyden’s participation in my brother’s workshop would accomplish. The legal preconditions have been met and the Court should divert Mr. Blyden in accordance with the Legislative Assembly’s policy statement in Section 4611 of Title 5″ of the Code VI, according to the motion.

Nothing in the legislation authorizes the Attorney General to impose charges on a program participant, and further, “the Attorney General has not yet explained where the Legislature granted the Attorney General the right to impose a fine of $5,000 as a precondition to participating in this program,” according to Blyden’s motion.

Blyden has already faced sanctions from the 6th Parliament. Just one night before Christmas Eve, his fellow senators passed Bill 34-0815, stripping him of his position as Majority Leader and imposing a 160-hour work suspension. The move follows an ethics committee investigation convened by Senate Speaker Donna Frett-Gregory in late September and chaired by Sen. Milton Potter.

Blyden, who said at the time of his arrest that he had taken three negative home tests for the virus before attending the event in September, pleaded not guilty in court on October 1 and was released on bail. own commitment.

Blyden issued a public apology two days after the rally at Tillett Gardens, saying he would not intentionally endanger anyone’s health and calling his actions a ‘terrible error of judgement’, and blaming his ‘workaholic’ tendencies. and its “pandemic fatigue”.

“I had a meeting scheduled for Saturday night with potential investors who had already come for the meeting, and I let my desire for economic development opportunities for our people override my better judgment and common sense,” Blyden said in his apology, but provided no further details about the meeting which would have included attending a rally of about 70 people at Tillett Gardens.

“Regardless of what I believed or even knew, I should have followed the guidelines set by the Department of Health and the CDC. Plain and simple, whatever my intentions, my actions were wrong. I am deeply sorry and humbly apologize to the people of the Virgin Islands,” Blyden wrote.

Blyden’s actions were also condemned by the Virgin Islands Democratic Party, which released a statement in September. “We categorically and shamelessly condemn Senator Blyden and others who willfully violate these standards and implore them to do better in the future because nothing is more important right now than safety, health, security and welfare. be of our people,” the party said.

“Although we are sympathetic to him contracting the disease, as civil servants and heads of government we are supposed to be more responsible. We must maintain appropriate standards and set appropriate examples in accordance with our national, state and local Democratic policies,” the statement said.

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Jill E. Washington