Magistrate Pearl Williams has rejected the bail application of United States citizen Jason James Grogg, who has been charged with eight customs offences. On the 4th of May, 2023, he was apprehended at Douglas Charles Airport while travelling to Barbados, two days after he was released from prison upon payment of a $25,000.00 fine for possession of firearms and ammunition. Three of the charges were for false declaration which Grogg pleaded not guilty to, while five were indictable complaints of evasion of customs duty.
The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Sherma Dalrymple argued against bail on the grounds that Grogg is a flight risk, however, Grogg’s defense attorney Jilane Prevost claimed that bail should be granted in the public’s interest, citing a High Court ruling which states that bail cannot be denied solely because of a non-national’s status as a flight risk.
Magistrate Williams postponed her decision until May 11, when she requested further submissions from both sides. On May 12, Customs Officer Davidson Stewart gave evidence for the prosecution.
According to him, while Grogg was in police custody, he informed his lawyer of Customs’ interest in interviewing him on May 4th, 2023. However, the interview never happened as the accused never showed up. On that day, it was discovered that Grogg was at the airport about to leave Dominica. Stuart was firm in his testimony that an interview had been scheduled. Alexander argued on two grounds for the prosecution’s objection. Firstly, he referred to section four subsection three of the bail act, stating that a person charged with a serious offence, punishable by a term of imprisonment, or previously convicted for an offence, is not entitled to bail unless the court finds there is just cause to do so. Alexander further submitted that there was substantial evidence to believe that Grogg would not surrender to the court for his trial as there was no proof that he intended to return to Dominica. He added that Grogg had no ties to Dominica as he was a missionary worker without a job.
Jilane Prevost, defense counsel, brought to the attention of the court that her client’s previous conviction was related to the same facts, circumstances, evidence, dates, and witnesses as the Customs proceedings. She suggested that the court should take a comprehensive approach when interpreting section four subsection three of the bail act. Prevost asserted that it was speculative to assert what the defendant knew or ought to have known as there was no official notice of a scheduled meeting with customs on the 4th of May or any other date. She argued that Grogg was a free man after being released from the court since his travel documents were returned to him with no further instructions. In addition, she cited that Grogg, his wife, and three children had no prior legal issues in Dominica before his conviction, thus there was no valid reason to think that the accused would commit another offense while on bail. She proposed that no witnesses were at risk, and it would be illogical for the defendant to attempt to interfere with any of them. She also declared that it was in the public’s interest to know that an individual who has just been convicted of an offense cannot be put in double jeopardy for the same facts and evidence of his criminal conviction and detained before being proven guilty.
Magistrate Williams declared that the court was not satisfied that there was sufficient cause to release Grogg on bail. She noted that Grogg had been living in Dominica for only two years, his children were all US citizens who were homeschooled, he had no form of steady employment apart from voluntary work, and there was no evidence of an approved work permit. Furthermore, Grogg did not have a permanent residence, as his rental agreement might be terminated at any time. As the mission for which Grogg came to Dominica had concluded and he was not able to demonstrate community ties, bail was ultimately denied and Grogg was remanded to the Dominica State Prison. A hearing to consolidate the charges was set for June 8, 2023, with the presiding Magistrate ruling that the summary matters would be tried by her, and the indictable matters would be heard by another Magistrate.
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