April 11, 2006 — After more than seven hours of debate, politically-motivated arguments, outbursts from testifiers and squabbling between senators, the nomination of Julio A. Brady to a judgeship position on the V.I. Superior Court was narrowly approved during Tuesday's Rules and Judiciary Committee meeting.
During his 30-minute opening statement, Sen. Ronald E. Russell, chair of the Rules Committee, said the meeting had been postponed from last month because the committee had received federal reports from U.S. Customs and Treasury which, he said, "questioned Brady's character," and could "degrade and embarrass" the V.I. government if released.
Russell said he took the information to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and asked if the governor wanted to withdraw Brady's nomination. "The governor told me that he would only withdraw a nomination if the nominee himself withdraws it," Russell said to Brady during the meeting. "And you told him you didn't want your name withdrawn."
Brady said the information obtained in the U.S. Customs report – which Russell said he had obtained from the federal government under the condition that the information only be released during Tuesday's meeting – related to former Police Commissioner Ramon Davila and was being used by Russell to "lobby your colleagues to vote against my nomination."
Under questioning from Sen. Celestino A. White Sr., Brady said the report contained many unsubstantiated claims against "Davila and not me."
Russell, however, said the report "cast a dark shadow on Virgin Islands leadership."
The idea that Brady had participated in an "illegal cover-up" — when he, as attorney general in 1997, dropped all charges against then Sen. Adelbert M. Bryan — was also at the forefront of Tuesday's meeting. Bryan was initially charged with involuntary manslaughter after he shot and killed his son.
"I regret the decision I made," Brady said when asked by senators. "Because it was based on the wrong evidence – evidence which caused a lot of grief and distress to a family. But the facts show that Adelbert Bryan committed no crime – that he only acted in self-defense."
During the meeting, attorney Joel Holt — who represents Innovative Communications Corp. in a number of matters and also served as Bryan's defense attorney in the case — supported Brady's statements by saying that there was "overwhelming" evidence that Bryan acted in self-defense. "There were also a number of witnesses who say the same thing," Holt said. "The issue at the time was that it was thought that there were three shots fired but forensic scientists determined there were only two."
In an effort to dispel other rumors, Holt added that the gun Bryan used was registered. "It was his service pistol, which he got after he left the Police Department," Holt said. "No jury was going to convict him of [illegal weapons charges for] that gun."
Bryan, who was also on hand to testify Tuesday, told senators that it was "hypocritical" to use the case against Brady for "political advantage."
While Russell told testifiers that former Assistant Attorney General John Davis II had contacted him about the nomination and indicated that there was a cover-up, Holt said that Davis – who was the prosecutor in the Bryan case – was "a high-profile, high-strung guy who didn't want to lose."
"And he knew he was going to lose that case, so he blamed everyone but himself," Holt added.
Russell attempted to enter Davis' testimony – audiotaped earlier this month in the presence of Rules Committee members – into the record. However, senators voted against it after evidence was introduced by Sen. Lorraine L. Berry and presiding Superior Court Judge Maria M. Cabret that Davis had been disbarred in the states of Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Berry also questioned Brady about whether his position as an attorney with ICC would be a conflict of interest. "I just want to make sure that you can objectively deal with these individuals if they have to come before you in court," she said. "Because I'm very troubled by the community's perception that there's selective prosecution of the law here in the territory, and you have to remove that perception."
Brady said he would recuse himself from all cases involving former clients – including Innovative Telephone, along with its parent and subsidiary companies – for a year after being confirmed as judge. "After the year is up, I will re-evaluate that position," he said.
Brady also fielded questions from other senators relating to the establishment of a local Supreme Court, his position on capital punishment and political affiliations.
In response to comments made by some senators relating to Brady's status as the State Head of the National Republican Party, Brady said the Virgin Islands is "unique," and that political affiliation should not sway the appointment or approval of nominees.
Many Brady supporters testified during Tuesday's meeting, including former Gov. Juan F. Luis, ICC Vice President for Community Affairs Holland Redfield, ICC Vice President of Legal Affairs J'Ada Finch-Sheen, Assistant Attorney General Joseph Ponteen and Gwendolyn Hall-Brady, who said her husband was a "man amongst men."
Redfield was more outspoken, however, and told senators the hearing was "a load of crap" and an "inquisition," which questioned Brady's character.
Other senators and testifiers agreed. "This has just become a long drawn-out process," Sen. Usie R. Richards said.
"This kind of prosecution and persecution that members of this community receive from people who are supposed to be our leaders makes it very difficult for anybody to say they want to get up and serve," Finch-Sheen added.
Around midnight, Sens. Roosevelt C. David, Louis P. Hill, and Russell voted against Brady's nomination, while Berry and Sens. Pedro "Pete" Encarnacion, Juan Figueroa-Serville, and Terrence "Positive" Nelson voted in favor.
The nomination moves on to the full Senate body for further consideration and a final approval.
All committee members were present during Tuesday's meeting, along with noncommittee members Sens. Liston Davis, Norman Jn Baptiste, Richards and White.
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