Defense attorneys Bobby King and Michael Quinn both tried without success Thursday to get certain charges dropped against clients former Gov. John deJongh Jr. and Julito Francis, which they said government prosecutors brought against the defendants even though they knew the statutes of limitations were up.
DeJongh and Francis were arrested and advised of their rights on Aug. 18 and charged with embezzlement of public funds and neglecting to pay over public monies, which they also pleaded not guilty to Thursday during their official arraignment hearing in V.I. Magistrate Court.
The charges stem from security improvements made at deJongh’s private residence during his first term as governor, paid for with money that the government has argued was appropriated for road work. During Thursday’s hearing, King argued that based on the timeline, the charge of neglecting to pay over public monies is beyond its three year statute of limitations, which would make it null and void after 2010.
The defense also argued that the government has tried to push for the rewriting of legislation to justify the charge, which they said is not supported by the evidence in the case.
In briefs recently filed with the court requesting a probable cause hearing, King and Quinn argued that there is also not enough evidence to support the charges of embezzlement, and arguments made Thursday forced Magistrate Judge Henry Carr to push the matter onto another judge after prosecutors said he didn’t have the jurisdiction to act under V.I. Code.
A discovery hearing for deJongh and Francis is instead scheduled on Oct. 29 at 9:30 a.m. in front of Judge Kathleen McKay.
Both men have requested a speedy jury trial and, in a statement released after the hearing Thursday, deJongh said he has “confidence that the judicial process will result in the just and proper outcome.”
“I appeared this morning to enter my plea of not guilty in Superior Court to the charges of embezzlement of public accounts and neglecting to pay over public monies because I am, in fact, not guilty,” deJongh said in the statement.
“With respect to the security measures that were undertaken at my property at the beginning of my first term as governor, each and every step was taken with full transparency and in adherence to standard government procedures in procurement,” he said.
DeJongh added that he also tried to pay for whatever security “measures” remained on his property after his last term ended, but his check was returned by the government.
“I provided the government with a bank manager’s check equal to the current market value of those security measures that would remain on my property,” he said in the statement. “I kept my commitment, but the check was returned.
"I thank my many friends for their expressions of support and ask them to keep faith in the certain knowledge that justice will be done.”