THERE were jitters yesterday in August Town and surrounding communities following a Court of Appeal order that alleged gang leader Christopher “Dog Paw” Linton be set free after serving more than seven years in prison for illegal possession of firearm and shooting with intent charges.
Linton and his co-accused Micah Allen were convicted in 2013 for shooting at two members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, who had been travelling in a service vehicle along Tavern Drive, St Andrew, in April of 2010.
Both men were sentenced to 15 years in prison for opening fire on the police and another 15 years for illegal possession of firearm. The sentences were ordered to run concurrently.
Yesterday, however, the Court of Appeal ruled that the evidence in the case, where identification was concerned, was unreliable. An appeal was allowed, the conviction quashed, the sentence set aside, and a verdict of acquittal entered for both men.
With news that Linton should be back on the streets again by today, Venesha Phillips, councillor for the Papine Division, which includes August Town and surrounding areas, appealed to Linton to steer clear of any activity that would be considered wrongdoing.
“I can only impress upon him, having been away for so long, not to return to a place that caused him, in the very first place, to be named and subsequently arrested, [and] not to engage in any gang-related activities that would put him, citizens, and the police at loggerheads.
“I would urge him to try, as best as is possible, to stay out of trouble. We, too, as councillors, have to respect the system of justice and, when that system speaks, we must, accordingly, say thanks to the court and encourage persons returning to the community to, as best as possible, conform, avoid confrontation, negativity, and violence,” she said yesterday in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.
She said that once she comes across Linton within the division she would deliver to him, personally, a message of encouragement.
“Tavern is where he really hails from. As councillor of the Papine Division I am sure that once Linton is in the space I may very well encounter him. If I do, I would definitely express to him my expectations, and give encouragement that he uses the opportunity to just reorganise himself into a citizen that the police won’t need to be chasing, and where people won’t need to be speculating as to whether or not he is back to cause mayhem, but that the people can feel comfortable that they have nothing to fear from him, his presence, or his influence,” she added.
Stephanie Lindsay, superintendent of police in charge of the Corporate Communications Unit, said yesterday that the police, like all Jamaica, had only just heard of the Court of Appeal’s decision, but said no formal discussions had taken place regarding Linton’s return to the streets.