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Veteran Court Journalist Assaulted By Prisoner
Thu, February 16, 2017
Being a frontline journalist may look simple enough, but it can be dangerous. That's what veteran court reporter and photographer Anita Nembhard found out today. She works the beat at Magistrate's Court every day which means coming face to face with everyone from alleged killers to petty thieves. And more than just face to face, she has to take their pictures - many times against their will! Well today things went very wrong when she was punched in the nose by a convicted murderer named Byron James. He was going back to prison, when she snapping pictures of other prisoners, and without provocation, he hit her in the face. She told us what happened, as she was making a police report this evening at the Euphrates precinct sub station:

Anita Nembhard, Court Reporter
"Byron James came to court today to get his verdict on a murder case. He was found guilty like a year ago and the judge decided to hand down his judgement and he found him guilty. I wasn't in court when they told him he was guilty but I knew it was going to happen because I came to court and I was following the case, so I came back a little late and I found out from the prosecutor that they found him guilty. I got his picture already and I was just taking pictures of the prisoners when they were leaving. I wasn't focusing on Byron. I said nothing to Mr. James in the sense to irritate him or aggravate him in any way. I believe he was upset because he was found guilty of murder."

"I saw them bringing him out and they stopped for a few minutes, but I never expected then to come the route that they took him, because I was more to the corner. They didn't open the backdoor of the prison bus, they came my direction and I was on the side and I never expected him to even come towards me or to push his hand and punched me. I never expected that from Mr. James, because I've never had anything to say to him before."

Daniel Ortiz
"I am sure you are subjected to disrespect, threats - all kind of things while trying t do your job as court journalist."

Anita Nembhard, Court Reporter
"That is true. I've always tell myself to stay the distance, because I've been warned many times to keep my distance and I've always been doing that, even though it's difficult sometimes and they do threw stuff at you, tell you words and stuff, but today, I guess I let down my guard today."

Daniel Ortiz
"Given that you're experience this, we know that this is way you feed your family. Does this make you fearful of you even trying to continue to do your job as photo journalist?"

Anita Nembhard, Court Reporter
"I've always said that I'm not fearful anymore. I've always said that some of us have some of the most crazy jobs to do. I just find myself liking the job and have been doing it for over 13 years, but I don't have any fear. You don't expect these things to happen, but you know they could happen and Mr. James just caught me off-guard and he attacked me for something I've never done to him. I know he is upset, but that doesn't mean you just take out your anger on anyone and everybody."

Daniel Ortiz
"For those persons will be seeing you speak so candidly about what you experience. What if they feel "Miss Nembhard, it you who put yourself in that type of danger.""?

Anita Nembhard, Court Reporter
"It's not justified. It's a job that I've been doing and it just happened and Mr. James will have to live with what he did to me today, because he knows that I didn't tell him anything or do him anything and he doesn't respect my job as a journalist. I've always respected all these prisoners. I try to put out story out there and be fair in my story and like I said he was upset and he had to lash out and he chooses me to lash out. It could have been anybody else in his way or in his direction and he would have done that too. I just so happened to be that one today unfortunately."

Nembhard also missed her deadline because of the incident which means a loss in earnings.

So, to the backstory which probably led to her being assaulted. This evening, Justice John Gonzalez gave handed down verdict for Byron James, who had faced trial without a jury for the murder of Frank Vasquez. Justice Gonzalez said that after his examination of the evidence on both sides he came to the conclusion that James shot and killed Vasquez and that James was guilty of murder.

Vasquez was shot on May 5, 2012. The evidence in the trial was that he left his house on Neal Pen Road to go and buy dog food. As he was about pick up his puppy and get on his bicycle, James shot him in the center of his back. Just as Vasquez spun around, James shot him twice in his face. The evidence is that James ran towards Fabers Road and Vasquez ran towards Central American Boulevard, where he collapsed. He was rushed in time for medical treatment at Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, but unfortunately, he died 4 days later.

At the trial which concluded in January 2016, one witness for the Crown testified that she saw when James shot Vasquez. Another witness for the Crown, who arrived at the scene while the shooting was taking place, testified that Vasquez told her that it was James who shot him. James gave a statement from the dock in which he said that at the time of the shooting, he was at a house on Fabers Road watching boxing on television. James' father testified and corroborated his son alibi statement.

Justice Gonzalez has deferred sentencing until Friday, February 24 to hear pleas for mitigation. James was represented by attorney Oscar Selgado while the Crown was represented by Crown Counsel Kileru Awich.

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