Important Note: This Internet version of 7 News is a verbatum
transcript of our evening television news script. Many interviews on our newscast
are conducted in Creole. In the interest of clarity for our foreign readers,
we attempt to paraphrase the Creole quotes in English
Last night, we told you about the Mennonite Businessman, Lloyd Freisen's, who returned back to Belize to make a formal complaint against the now infamous William Danny Mason. Now that Mason is in jail, the couple felt secure enough to report to police exactly what they endured, allegedly at the hands of Mason and his associates.
As we told you the businessman says that Mason swindled him out of 300 thousand dollars, and when he tried to get him money back, Mason and his associates kidnapped him, threatened him and extorted him.
Well, police charged Mason's Ranch Manager, Ryan Rhaburn, and after hours of uncertainty of whether or not they would or wouldn't arraign him they took him to before Magistrate Ladonna John in Belmopan. That arraignment failed twice today, and this afternoon during the second attempt, our newsteam was there to watch it fall apart:
Ryan Rhaburn, charged by police for the kidnapping of Mennonites, Lloyd Freisen and his wife, walked into the Belmopan Magistrates Court, his hands cuffed and shackled to his feet.
He was not given the heightened security treatment that his employer, William Mason aka "Ted Oulette", had received when he and his fellow defendants were being arraigned for murder and kidnapping.
Still, the cops followed him into the court to make sure that he was properly in its precincts. Most unusually, and quite unlike his boss, Mason, he exited court less than an hour later free of the police. Apparently the cops had bungled his arraignment because the substance of his criminal charges did not stand up to Magistrate Ladonna John's scrutiny.
Rhaburn's attorney was satisfied that his client was able to go home after 96 hours in police detention:
Herbert Panton - Attorney for the Defence "It is the same thing as was the previous case with the other 5 clients and there is no need for Chester Williams to go and do any legal research on this one because it's the same thing. Whatever the facts are of the case the criminal procedure rule say that they ought to be represented to the defendant prior to arraignment. On the facts presented it must be established that there is a prima facie case. Now we're not dealing with evidence, evidence comes at the time of BI and the time of trail but when reading the facts you must be able to surmise that kidnapping which is the charge here actually occurred. And how does kidnapping occur? It occurs when you hold someone against his or her will. The facts say that 2 creole descent person, male persons held the Thiesens at the residence at Intelco Hill. The moment they were held against their will the kidnapping occurred. They said that they did not know the male person but if they saw them again they would be able to recognize them. They did not mention Mr. Rhaburn's name as to any of the two gentlemen at Intelco Hill. The facts further state that they were driven from Intelco Hill to the farm on the Western Highway. They had some kind of crocus sack or something over their head but through the little holes in that sack they were able to recognize Mr. Rhaburn. Now the kidnapping done happen so you recognize Mr. Rhaburn how do you connect Mr. Rhaburn to the kidnapping? Mr. Rhaburn works at the farm, Mr. Rhaburn is a farm manager."
"Mr. Rhaburn may have very well may have been attending the sheep, the pig, the cow, the goat whatever is on the farm and then the charge states of kidnapping at mile 30 and 31 which would put it in the Belize judicial district. But how could you kidnap at mile 30 and 31 if the Thiesens say they were held against their will at Intelco Hill?"
But, Panton says that he is sure that police will make another attempt to arrest and prosecute his client for this very same incident, something they are legally entitled to.
Herbert Panton - Attorney for the Defence "All that needs to happen if for the police to get their ducks in a row, put the facts together, put the charge together and come back and re-arrest my client and charge him."
Daniel Ortiz "So sir he is not exactly free of this particular?"
Herbert Panton - Attorney for the Defence "I am certain they will come and charge and I had no problem with that on the first occasion. But all I am saying lord man you da the police force get your ducks in a row, get your act together."
So, that's where it is tonight, Rhaburn is released after several days in police custody, but the cops can bring the kidnapping and conspiracy to commit kidnapping charge a second time if they so choose, since he was not acquitted.
And now Belmopan police are saying that William “Danny” Mason’s wife Melissa Ferguson is also wanted for questioning. Police have circulated this ID picture of her and say that she is a person of interest for Belmopan police. Now, her story is also interesting. Ferguson is a Canadian who has also been accused of shady business dealings in her home country – though the website with those allegations has been taken down. Ferguson has a Belizean work permit - which was recently renewed - and a social security card. Her ID says she is 56 and lives at Los Lagos. She was not at the Mason home on Intelco Hill in Belmopan when police searched it earlier this week. William “Danny” Mason who has many aliases also identified himself as William Ferguson.
Tonight, 19 year-old Devon Brooks Jr. Seen here in white, 23 year-old David Cruz Jr., seen here in Green, and 33 year-old Richard Hyde, who is the other older man in white, are at the Belize Central Prison after the were arraigned in the Belmopan Magistrate's Court for the heist at the Income Tax Department on last week Friday evening.
They have been charged with 3 counts of robbery for the almost 30 thousand dollars stolen at gunpoint. David Cruz, his mother, Stephanie Cruz, and Brooks have been charged with keeping unlicensed ammunition, and keeping an unlicensed firearm for a cop's gun found at their home. Brooks and Cruz are also charged with aggravated assault.
Ischelle Tablada, a former Government employee who has since resigned has been charged with abetment to commit robbery because police believe that she acted as an accomplice, driving the getaway car. The Magistrate read them all their charges this evening, and after objections by the prosecution, she remanded them into custody. This evening, Tablada's attorney, Leeroy Banner, told us that he was surprised that the magistrate did not accept his submission to grant Tablada bail, given that she is a single mother, who takes care of her ailing mother:
Leroy Banner - Attorney for Defence "They were trying to press on the court that under section 16 of the crime control act that abetment to commit robbery is a bail able offence and in this case my client she has 3 young children and her mother is sick and think that it is better that bail should be given because the evidence, there is no evidence whatsoever that links her to the crime."
Mike Rudon "Were you surprised that she was denied bail?"
Leroy Banner - Attorney for Defence "Of course I was surprised."
Mike Rudon "What was the argument the prosecution to object to bail?"
Leroy Banner - Attorney for Defence "The prosecution is saying they still need to try and recover more money and that robbery is on the rise in Belize pretty much."
Mike Rudon "From being in court you have any idea of the other 3 men. I know you were not their attorney but could you give us an idea of what happened with them?"
Leroy Banner - Attorney for Defence "Bail was denied because they were charged with firearm offences and under the law the magistrate cannot give them bail for firearm offences so they was no argument per say because it automatic that you go to Supreme Court for bail."
2 men were busted with weed after they tried to bribe MIT officers. Last night at around 8:30, Belize City resident Matthew Jason Ruiz stopped at a mile 54 checkpoint on the George Price Highway. Ruiz told the officers that he would “hook them up” if they let him pass through with his weed. These officers didn’t fall for it and ordered Ruiz and his passenger Juan Lagos to get out of the car. The officers searched the vehicle and found 55 pounds of weed distributed in 2 sacks. Both Ruiz and Lagos were charged with drug trafficking.
And San Pedro police also made a weed bust – their one was one and a half pounds, or just under a kilo. Yesterday at noon, special branch and CIB personnel retrieved a suspicious parcel from the Tropic Air Cargo section in San Pedro town. No one was observed going to pick it up, and the parcel was labeled as found property.
Last night we told you about the sickening case of a man who penetrated a 2 year old boy with his finger. Tonight there is another disturbing child abuse case to report where a man forced a 9 year old girl to perform oral sex on him. 28 year old Rashad Arnold was charged with rape today when he appeared before Magistrate Deborah Rogers. No plea was taken because the offense is indictable. He was denied bail and remanded to custody until October 3rd. The incident occurred yesterday and the mother reported that she only became suspicious after she saw both Arnold and her daughter coming out of the bathroom.
From a sacred burial site to a stone panel; what is the connection between these finds at Xunantunich? Well this part 2 story will unravel that link. The panel was found a week ago in two halves. It is only until the archaeologists shifted the halves in a readable position where they able to decipher the message. Courtney Weatherburne has the story:
Hidden beneath the earth, at the foot of the burial site, was the second panel.
The first panel was found last month. While that one was intact.
This recent stone tablet was found in 2 halves. The first half was found last Monday and a date is inscribed on it, which tells us that this panel and the hieroglyphic stairway that it was once a part of, was built in 642 AD. The other 3 glyphs on this half reflect the 3 deities that oversaw the construction of the stairway.
Dr. Jaime Awe- Archaeologist "What is really amazing about this discovery is that we now have 2 panels from what we believe was a hieroglyphic stairway that was at the site of Caracol and it appears now that this panel which we call panel 4, would have been at the start of the statement that was being made by the hieroglyphic stairway and the first panel was at the end so it's like having the start and the end of a sentence."
So what is that sentence? What message is behind this panel? Well it's all exposed on the second half.
Dr. Jaime Awe- Archaeologist "It says that the statue is no longer at its place of origin, it's somewhere else, this is where this glyph becomes important, it is the emblem glyph or coat of arms so to speak of the site of Calakmul, Calakmul is a city in Campeche Mexico. Now the question is, what the heck is a glyph that talks about the city of Calakmul doing on this panel, this is where we have to go back to the first panel, the first panel starts to talk about Lady Bat Sek, the mother of Lord Kaan the second, guess where she was born? At Calakmul. She marries Lord Water from Caracol as part of an alliance between Caracol and Calakmul."
So that explains the narrative, but it doesn't tell us why and how it ended up here at Xunantunich. Dr. Awe says they have come up with a few theories.
Dr. Jaime Awe- Archaeologist "One group of epigraphers suggest that that these panels were part of this hieroglyphic stairway, commissioned by Lord Kaan the second at the city of caracol , and it talk about the defeat of Naranjo by Caracol. Around 680 AD, Naranjo gets it's revenge on Caracol and with some allies, very likely Xunantunich, Ukanal go up to beat up on Caracol, rips a part the hieroglyphic stairway, takes some of it to Naranjo and they mount it in no good order because they don't want people to be able to read it but it gifts sections of it to its allies, 2 of them coming to Xunantunich and a fragment going to Ukanal; that's one hypothesis."
"The other hypothesis, that is supported by David Fidel, Arlen Chase is that, no the hieroglyphic stairway was constructed at Naranjo by Caracol, to say, in your face, I beat you, you know I defeated you in battle, then later when Naranjo frees itself from Caracol's control, it jumbles the hieroglyphic stairway and it gifts sections to some of its allies."
With these discoveries and interpretations, the broader perspective of the Maya world is illuminated, bringing into focus the alliances between Mayan cities, and even the rivalries that destroy kingdoms. But there is one more element, one last piece of the puzzle: Why was the panel placed at the burial site of this Maya ruler?
Dr. Jaime Awe- Archaeologist "Is it possible that that individual may have been the one who participated in the attack and eventual defeat of Caracol by Naranjo was it then purposefully brought here because that is where this person is buried."
While the archaeologists have unearthed all the layers of this discovery and decoded its meaning, they have to run tests to confirm or debunk their hypotheses – a process through which the true mystery of history will be revealed.
Stay tuned tomorrow for the final part of the Xunantunich feature series where we will take you to a sacred Maya scribe room at the magnificent El Castillo structure.
GSU Commander Superintendent Mark Flowers is under scrutiny tonight, and there had been speculation that he might have been charged today – but, as it turns out the case is not that straightforward. First, the 14 year old girl who has accused him of having sexual relations with her twice in the early part of this year, is pregnant. Sources tell us that Flowers is urging police and the human services department to subject him to a paternity test to prove that he is not the father of the child. Second, sources tell us that there was a prior complaint made by the child saying that he stepfather had fondled her, but that was made in Belmopan, while this complaint was made in the city. Now, both cases are being looked at together. Both incidents are alleged to have occurred at a village in the Cayo district. These factors explain why police are proceeding with caution.
Now, the PUP doesn't want to hear it. The party issued a release today saying, quote, "News reports today speak of the police seeking "substantial proof" before moving against Mr. Flowers. This is completely unacceptable. Once a credible report and complaint of unlawful sexual intercourse has been made against anyone, the Police must bring charges. It is not for the Police to seek substantial proof. That is the responsibility of the Court. If the Police has been presented with a credible report and Mr. Flowers has not been charged then he is receiving special treatment and protection, which we deplore in the strongest terms. If this serious allegation is true then Mr. Flowers must face all the consequences of his actions and be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Nothing less will do." End quote.
And while superintendent Flowers is under fire for the complaint of unlawful carnal knowledge that's presently against him, he's also being blazed up on Facebook for being one of the many police and politicians who went on top of Intelco Hill to visit Danny Mason. For sure, Mason was a friendly guy – he loved especially friends in high places in the police department and in Cabinet. As afar as the politicians go the issue is money. Mason seemed to have lost of it, and Frank Pawpa Mena accepted that he got a campaign contribution, while John Saldivar said he got one for his football team. The truth is – that the dirty little secret of modern politics is that campaign financing is a cash business, lots of cash for lots of politicians both red and blue. Yesterday we asked the PUP is they were willing to cut off the hands that also feed them:..
Jules Vasquez "Very rich criminals launder money through financing. It's a great way to launder money and campaign financing is something that works in cash. Is the PUP prepared to take an ardent and hard line stand on campaign financing? Number one and on two integrity in public life through leading by example and saying here are out published financials; the government won't do it because they are X,Y and Z but we will do it because we are not those things. Thanks"
Hon. John Briceno - Leader of Opposition "Certainly on the issue of political financing legislation I think it is high time for us to be looking at that seriously and to find ways how we can manage or control the issue of money to be able to win elections and it may also require Jules that TV stations during election time might have to give free time to the political parties as example. I have a radio station and television station so it's not only for you but for all of us and other ideas as to political parties disclosing the financing that they get. As for us to disclosure is something we are all working on and I am prepared to take that to my executive and for us to be able to present our financials to the public since we can't do it through the integrity commission."
And while that was at best a "wait and see" or, more likely, "we hope you forget", the truth is Danny Mason was probably an equal opportunity financier – most of the big money political contributors are – they freely give to both sides. So did Danny Mason give the PUP money too? That's what the media asked John Briceno yesterday:…
Reporter "Has Mr. Mason ever approach the PUP to offer campaign finances or is the PUP or anyone from the PUP leadership associated with Mr. Mason in anyway or has been to his house?"
Hon. John Briceno - Leader of Opposition "As far as I know no; and I could certainly tell you that I have never met the gentleman; so as far as we know no."
And while Briceno doesn't know, we have heard reports that members of the PUP Western Caucus also made visits up Intelco hill.
21 men signed up for the Belize Coast Guard Seals training program this year, but only one made it through the grueling four month course. Today that single seals graduate joins a platoon of coast guard seals- an elite squad of military men who operate as the special forces of the Belize Coast Guard. This year's graduate whose name cannot be revealed for security reasons now joins the squad of elites- whose paramilitary training is enough to measure up to the US Navy Seals. The graduation ceremony this afternoon kicked off in the usual military style as the graduate was joined by members of the B-Sag and the US Navy in simulating a military combat scenario.
CDR Elton Bennett - Assistant Commandant, Belize Coast Guard "What you saw here today is culminations of 4 a month's exercise involving the Belize Coast Guard Seal and we started back in April with 21 potential candidates. During that 4 month period majority of the candidate class dropped out and we are down to one coast guard man who's graduating and be pinned with a coast guard seal trident today. The exercise was very difficult going through different phases of leadership and tactics; land, sea and air operations as you witnessed today so we're very proud of that one individual and it's a programme that we consider to be very important for the coast guard in conducting special operations."
Emanuel Pech "Over the course of the years that the programme has been running we've noticed a decrease in the number of graduates. Could you tell us why? Is the programme getting more difficult?"
CDR Elton Bennett - Assistant Commandant, Belize Coast Guard "Not getting more difficult we think it is the same curriculum the same system. You know it's structured by the United States Navy Seals and they are the one who are really conducting the training for us. So there is no change should the programme we believe that we are preparing our candidates well and we are doing our best to get them prepared for this exercise and training. It's a difficult very difficult course."
"Just give us an idea of what this single person that graduated endured over the course of the 4 months."
CDR Elton Bennett - Assistant Commandant, Belize Coast Guard "It started off with introduction mainly physical. They would go through different tactical operations. As mentioned it's more mental than anything so they would be doing long hours during the day but the main event during the training is what we refer to as hell week where that one individual would get somewhere between 3 to 4 hours sleep for the entire week and just a continuous physically demanding pressure on him."
Reporter "One of the questions that come to mind is how often or have these individuals these high trained operators been activated in any instances thus far?"
CDR Elton Bennett - Assistant Commandant, Belize Coast Guard "They would go out on special operations. Special operations meaning anything not routine; high risk operations, counter drugs, counter narcotics operations. The frequency of which we would not be able to discuss on air but there involved once we believe the tempo of that operation requires a more specially trained, special equipped group of men then we would launch the coast guard seals into that mission."
The Belize Coast Guard Seals program has been facilitated by the US Navy seals from its inception. But today's ceremony also marked an end to that program. The bad part is, the Coast Guard Commandant does not yet have the 48 seals that he originally wanted. For that reason according to the assistant commandant, it will now become the job of the past graduates to train the new recruits.
The Under 20 Hoop Dreams Belize captured the basketball dream this year again for the second consecutive time making it a total of three wins at the annual Copa Cancun basketball tournament. The Belize team faced a lot of formidable competition as it faced off against 6 of the finest under 20 basketball teams in Mexico. But the team pulled off another remarkable victory, bringing home the first place trophy. They were recognized and applauded today by the National Sports Council at brief ceremony inside Rogers's stadium in Belize City.
Brads Neal - Coach, Hoop Dreams Belize "The COPA Cancun tournament is a very fierce tournament. In our category we play which is U-20 none of our players are 18 years old so we are playing like 2 years ahead of our age category but the players basketball IQ their willingness to win, their drive and determination to excel and exceed at that level is innate it's something you see inside of them. We started the tournament very slow we lost our first game and we saw every game progressively the players got better the team got better. Everything that we did we got better at."
Emanuel Pech "Now throughout the tournament, who was your biggest competitor?"
Nicholas Phillips - Captain, Hoop Dreams Belize "Our biggest competitor for me would the Scorpions, the Cancun Scorpions. That team really gave us a battle out there and showed us why they are who they are and the way our team stuck together and kept our composure and defeated them was amazing."
Emanuel Pech "And exactly how did you pull that off?"
Nicholas Phillips - Captain, Hoop Dreams Belize "Well basically we stick to the coach game plan and the players talked about reach mistake we made and how to correct it. We encouraged each other in certain areas we know we could do better in."
Emanuel Pech "What does it take for a young man like yourself all the way from PG to be a part of the Hoop Dreams Belize team?"
Darnell Oden - Hoops Dream Belize "Well this is my first year but I was supposed to come on the trip last year but I had a little school problem so it's hard for me do it because of the workout schedule and now it's a good time because its summer time and I have relatives in the city so it's just a 6 hour trip from here to PG. And it just takes you focus and hard work and dedication."
Ritchell Dominguez - Dir, National Sports Council "We Belize to know that at the national sports council we support sports and we supported when teams go away and usually when they go away and come they are not recognized as they should. We are partnered with you all with your agency in saying thanks for what you have done for Belize because its only in encouragement that you all will keep on doing what you're doing."
The Copa Cancun International 2016 was held from the 14 to the 17 of July in Cancun.
About 34 families and more than a hundred people were affected in the fire that gutted nearly a dozen houses in San Pedro town last month. Among those affected were several school children. They lost everything in the fire and were going into the school year empty handed if it weren't for a generous donation from BTL. This morning the company handed over a check for $10 thousand dollars to the Belize Red Cross. These monies will directly assist school children of San Pedro whose belongings were destroyed in the fire.
Anwar Barrow - Chairman, BTL Executive Committee "BTL does a lot of support for the community and different initiatives different organisations throughout the year and when we saw what happened in San Pedro we wanted to be a part of it, we wanted to make a meaningful contribution and so we requested from the board a figure of 10 thousand Belize dollars and we are donating that specifically to help the school children of the victims going back to school in August and September."
Daniel Guerrero - Mayor San Pedro Town "Well number wise with the kids I'm not too sure but I can tell you definitely 34 families and about 100 people got affected; and yes the Red Cross has done assessments concerning how many kids and it was a huge fire. We manage to control it in the early hours in the morning and we have been working since then. We had a radio-ton that we on our first day hit 184 thousand dollars which was very good and contribution, donations are still coming in from within the country and from abroad."
Emanuel Pech "Can you give us an idea of where these monies received from BTL will go? You said school supplies but what do you mean? Bags, pencils what kind of things?"
Lilly Bowman - Director General, Belize Red Cross "Well seeing that Angelus Press does not really provide the text books itself for the different classes we were looking at something that can help them across the board once you're a school age. We were thinking of the school backpacks and like the general dictionary, bible, atlas and of course notebooks, pens, pencils, rulers and things like that. That's what I believe we will look to get. Angelus Press will be very considerate with the prices and we will see how best we can maximize to have every child that was affected have something to go back to school with."
32 to 35 children of San Pedro will be receiving this assistance from Red Cross, courtesy of BTL.
The annual National Song Competition is just around the corner, but those who want to enter have to do so within the next 24 hours. Yesterday NICH made an appeal to all the tunesmiths and songsters, to please send in their submissions…
For the senior category this year, the first place prize is $10,000 dollars, and for the juniors, first place prize is $4,500.