Defense Chief Lawsuit against Opposition youth leader is premature

-case should be thrown out!

By Kai Toteh | October 28, 2013

Brownie Samukai (on left)
Defense Chief Samukai (left) consults with AFL Chief of staff

Monrovia:- It was reported last Thursday, October 24, 2013 by the Insight Newspaper that Defense Minister Brownie Samukai has filed a lawsuit with the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court alleging that Mr. Jefferson Koiji, youth wing chairman for the opposition Congress for Democratic Change party for defamation. Samukai said Koiji defamed him after Koiji alleged that he, Samukai was one of those who plotted to assassinate President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf upon her arrival at the Robert International Airport.

During last weekend, I happened to be in possession of a copy of the publication of this lawsuit’s story. While in the gathering, an older man, who is a radio repairer, did not completely read the paper, but he was concerned from reading the headline and put a question to the rest of the group. He said, “But is Samukai now cleared of the allegation made against him, or has Koiji been investigated?” Someone in the group answered him by saying the last time he heard, Liberian National Police had invited Koiji for a preliminary investigation, and in fact, Koiji was offered maximum police protection, and that he can choose any place he wants to be interviewed and choose anyone or a lawyer he has confidence in to be an eye for him.

The conclusion by the group of discussants was if that is the case—that investigation still awaits Koiji, during which time, two things will happen, namely; either Koiji could be held liable for false information or Samukai be cleared of wrongdoing.

Unfortunately, Samukai took Koiji to court, and that prompted the following questions: who told Samukai Koiji lied on him, which could justify slander or defamation? Or is it one of the big man’s advantages. Or is Samukai trying to “chakala” the whole case, because there seems to be smoke behind Koiji’s fire?

For our part, so that we distribute the irregularities between or among those involved in this lawsuit, let us take a deeper look and do a critical analysis at the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court, who without thorough review of Samukai’s lawsuit, went ahead and issued a writ ordering Koiji to appear in Chambers or face judgment by default if he failed to attend.

The court, in my opinion and based on legal analysis of the criminal and civil laws, erred by registering Samukai’s premature lawsuit and attempting to find the defendant guilty by default. First, the court erred; because it should know that Koiji did not defame Samukai. Accusing someone of criminal offense does not automatically by law make the accuser a slanderer. Mr. Koiji did not only accuse Samukai but along with others of plotting to assassinate President Sirleaf. Koiji, by libel law has neither committed slander yet because it has not been proven by criminal investigators that his communication concerning the plot to assassinate President Sirleaf is a false statement intended to injure Samukai person's reputation, nor it is yet to be established it is a false and malicious statement.

Second, the court erred, because Samukai remains accused and is still a suspect until he is officially cleared by criminal investigators. And last but not the least, civil lawsuit does not precede criminal trial— it is the other way around—a civil lawsuit is filed against the complainant after a criminal case is concluded in favor of the accused or a criminal suspect like Brownie Samukai and others—who felt that they were injured by slander or libel by the person who accused them.

Another legal rambling found in Samukai’s lawsuit is the court’s order as follows: The Insight quoted the court as saying: “The court further commanded its sheriff to take inventory of all identifiable properties or assets of Mr. Koije including monies, equipment, vehicles and real property (leasehold rights), that could sum up to US$500,000; an amount equivalent to the damages cause by his alleged slander and against Minister Samukai.”

Given the foregoing order by the Honorable Sixth Judicial Circuit Court, it is clear that Samukai could be succeeding in his attempt to undermine police’s investigation that is underway, and the court for its role may be creating a conflict of interest. To hit the nail on the head, Koiji was supposed to be investigated first by criminal investigators to confirm his allegation before any civil lawsuit can be filed and if any court honors such civil lawsuit like Samukai’s then it is shady and could bring the court to public scrutiny and Samukai could be seen as evasive or one who is running away from criminal justice and trying to seek sanctuary in civil law under the guise of slander and libel.

Therefore, the article’s intended purpose is to bring to the attention of complainant Samukai that his lawsuit is premature and could be seen as an attempt to reduce the entire criminal investigation into oblivion, that which has the possibility to damage his credibility, because if he and the court pursued this case anyhow, and police for some bureaucratic reason fail to continue the criminal investigation of the case for which Samukai is suing their potential state witness, the entire system including police, criminal justice, civil law and civil lawsuit, the court and judges and the judiciary will be considered a joke that no one will take seriously in a long time.