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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, December 7, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesInnocent Until Proven Not Guilty

Innocent Until Proven Not Guilty

Dear Source:
On March 4, 2009 a jury of our peers unanimously handed down a verdict of not guilty in the trial of KAPOK, Peter Fagan and three other defendants. Kapok and Peter were operating a business on St. Croix under a USVI grant of EDC (then IDC) benefits, to the great benefit of the entire Virgin Islands. They were charged with conspiring to unlawfully deprive the IRS of tax revenue.
The decision made by this jury was not difficult as the defendants were very clearly innocent of the charges, but finding the courage to make that decision might have been. This trial, and the six years of unceasing harassment by the IRS and its agents, was never about guilt and innocence, it was about federal government arrogance and intimidation, it was about the IRS trying to send a message of fear to other taxpayers at the expense of honest hardworking, ethical people. It was about an attempt to apply unrelenting pressure to try to squeeze out an admission of guilt on some lesser charge so they could parade it around like it was a success (but they didn’t get one). I am sure plenty of women admitted to being witches while being burned at the stake in Salem. But the Feds did not know who they were taking on when they decided to go after Peter Fagan. They had no idea of the strength of his resolve not to admit to something he did not do.
Almost as disturbing as the behavior of those that are theoretically in our service, is the way that so many in our community have reacted to this case from day one. The fact that so many people are ready and willing to abandon the concept of innocent until proven guilty and how our media driven society is so quick to persecute without any facts makes me very sad.
For those of you who have stood in line to throw stones at Kapok and Peter Fagan and others, I hope you look at yourself in the mirror and commit that the next time you read something in the paper or hear it on the radio, that you pause and remember the important principles that our legal system is based on, such as innocent until proven guilty. And that until you know the facts, until the accused has a chance to speak, that you don’t know anything. I hope that the next time you are sitting across the table or the barstool from someone attacking a person’s character based on nothing more than a rumor or a newspaper article that quotes some federal agent who is immune from a lawsuit for defamation or slander, that you might have the courage to tell them that you don’t want to be a part of that kind of nonsense and you will wait until the matter is decided by the facts.
I do want to end on a positive note though, and say a thank you, to a jury that sat and listened to a poser try to tell them what it meant to be a Virgin Islander. A jury that was able to see through the smoke and mirrors and manipulation, to see four honest men who truly tried to do the right thing. To them I say thank you and God Bless You.
Eric Hutchins
Houston, Texas

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