Enid Edwards, one of three V.I. law enforcement officials currently on trial for crimes ranging from illegal narcotics distribution and drug trafficking to extortion and fraud, took the stand in her own defense Monday in St. Thomas District Court and denied all allegations against her.
Edwards, a 20-year VIPD veteran, is being tried along with co-defendants Francis Brooks of the VIPD, and Port Authority police officer Bill John-Baptiste. The three face 43 local and federal counts between them, relating to incidents of alleged corruption, conspiracy and assault that took place from 2000 to 2008.
Deeb’s Testimony Refuted
Edwards sparred with prosecutors as they cross-examined her on details of her dealings with Elias Deeb, the FBI informant whose covertly recorded interactions with Brooks and Edwards that led to many of the charges being filed.
Deeb claimed on the stand last week that he paid Edwards and Brooks $900 to get him a new driver’s license in 2006 after his had expired, since his lapsed immigration status made him unable to do it himself. The prosecution supplied video and audio tapes to support the allegations.
However, on the stand Monday, Edwards said that she never accepted any money from Deeb and never helped him with his license in any way. She said that as far as she knew, he was a legal resident and renewed his own license without anyone’s help.
When asked if she had any reason to believe Deeb was an illegal alien, she blurted out "No, I knew he was married to an American citizen" before being stopped by the prosecutor’s objections.
"There was no sale of a license," she later testified. "I did not talk to any DMV officer about Deeb’s license. I didn’t need to, because he was legit. He filled out his own forms."
Edwards suggested that since Deeb knew he was being recorded, he may have been trying to coax conversation out of Edwards and Brooks that could come across as incriminating. She also implied that audio from different interactions was possibly spliced together out of context to make it seem as if transactions took place that had in fact never occurred.
Defense attorney George Hodge asked Edwards what she meant on the tape when she said "It’s $400 for a license." Edwards countered, saying "I never said ‘it’s $400 for a license.’ I said ‘it’s $400.’"
"Those films are not accurate," she added. "It was only a partial account. Deeb would talk about one thing in one conversation and something totally different in the next conversation. What the FBI should have investigated is what Deeb was doing with those tapes in his room."
Officer Brooks, who is Edwards’ partner, was very friendly with Deeb, and Edwards testified that the two men played keno together and that Deeb often borrowed money from Brooks. Between repeated objections by counsel, Edwards tried to imply that conversations between the two men about money owed for keno could have been taken out of context and mistaken for conversations about payment for Deeb’s license.
Edwards is charged in the indictment with a financial crime called "structuring," which is when financial transactions are done in a way intended to skirt certain federal reporting regulations.
Last week the prosecution admitted several-dozen documents into evidence relating to large cash deposits made from March 2001 through July 2009. Evidence shows that Edwards deposited more than $9,000 on at least 10 occasions during that time period.
In her own defense Edwards claimed she had a valid reason for each deposit. Concerning the deposit of $28,500 on Aug. 30, 2002, Edwards said that her partner Alice had sold a taxi medallion a few days earlier, and the two of them deposited the proceeds into their joint account at Scotia Bank.
When asked about two $9,000 transactions made in May 2008 at FirstBank, Edwards said that the funds came from the legitimate sale of two pieces of gold jewelry. She denied that she purposely kept the amounts under $10,000 in order to avoid triggering the bank to file a Currency Transaction Form, and said she didn’t even know what a CRT form was prior to the trial.
Regarding a series of more than 30 cash transactions made in the summer of 2009, Edwards noted that she had contracted with a local builder to have a house constructed for her and her family, and that she often paid the workers in cash. She described a system where she’d write a check to the person (drawn on her construction loan account), have them sign the back, then give them cash in hand.
Previous witnesses, such as Lennard George, one of the construction workers employed by Edwards, testified that they preferred to be paid this way because they often found it difficult to get to the bank to cash a check.
To counter the prosecution’s claims last week that Edwards may have used money extorted from drug dealers, vehicle owners, and other citizens for personal gain, Edwards’ attorney Jay Shreenath admitted several timesheets, pay stubs and other documents into evidence.
Edwards’ testified that these documents showed she had several additional sources of income besides her salary as a police officer. One job involved guarding a construction site for Balbo Construction from 2000 to 2003, for which she collected $2,520 every two weeks. According to timesheets, Edwards worked from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., making roughly $12 per hour.
Edward’s W-2 form from her job as a police officer was also presented, which offered evidence of her most recent salary of nearly $130,000. Under questioning, Edwards testified that she also did a lot of overtime and collected pay for that in addition to her base salary.
And lastly Shreenath showed the jury Edwards’ construction loan statement from FirstBank, as proof that she had a legitimate source of funds to pay for construction materials and workers on her house.
Several of the charges against Edwards involve alleged extortion in collusion with Brooks, specifically that they demanded money from suspects in order to avoid prosecution. Three witnesses—including drug dealer John Lindquist, vehicle owner Kenneth Love, and taxi driver Jossenel Morino—claimed last week that Edwards and Brooks offered to let them off the hook if they paid up.
Edwards denied any such exchanges ever took place with any of the witnesses.
Lindquist told jurors that Brooks confiscated a gun from him in 2008 during a drug arrest and that Edwards and Brooks forced him to pay money to avoid prosecution. On the stand, Edwards denied she had ever met Lindquist until they shared the same holding cell on July 24, 2010.
Love claimed last week that in August 2007 Edwards drove him around for more than an hour and tried to shake him down for $1,000 in order to get a clamp removed from his car.
"The first time I saw Ken Love was in court last week," Edwards said. "I never saw him before, he was never in my car, and I didn’t take any money from him. I don’t deal with money!"
Her defense was similar in response to the charges that she and Brooks, in collusion with Bill John-Baptiste, tried to extort $1,000 from Marino in exchange for the release of his girlfriend Yvese Calixte.
Calixte, a taxi driver, was arrested on April 2, 2008, by John-Baptiste at the Red Hook ferry terminal for refusing to stop soliciting for fares.
"I had no interaction with Marino on that day," she explained. "I did not receive anything from him or Calixte. I only knew him from prior traffic stops. I stopped him a lot for seat belt and cell phone violations."
Edwards’ testimony continues on Tuesday at 9 a.m.