EMBATTLED clergyman, the Rev Al Miller, yesterday pleaded not guilty to charges of harbouring a fugitive and perverting the course of justice in his first court appearance since his arrest last week when he was found in the company of accused drug lord Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.
Miller — who turned up at the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate’s Court about half-hour early with a large entourage which included wife Jesmine, daughter Kerine and other pastors — confidently pleaded not guilty when the charges against him were read out.
The case against the embattled minister of religion was called up minutes after 10 o’clock and the allegations outlined against him before senior magistrate Judith Pusey.
According to the Crown, on June 22 the police received information that Miller was heading into Kingston from St Ann with Coke, and that they were being accompanied by two other vehicles.
A dragnet was set up at a certain point and the police signalled the vehicle in which Miller was travelling to stop, but the pastor allegedly sped off. Miller had on two occasions disobeyed the police order to stop, according to the Crown.
The vehicle was some time later intercepted along the Mandela Highway near the border of St Andrew and St Catherine, the court was told, and Coke was spotted inside wearing a wig.
The court was told that Miller, who heads the Fellowship Tabernacle, told the police that he was heading to the US Embassy to turn in Coke. But the Crown said that there was no agreement with the police high command for this to be done.
At the time of his apprehension, Coke was on the run for four weeks in an apparent bid to avoid extradition to the United States where he is to face trial on drug and gunrunning charges. Coke was extradited last week Thursday after waiving his right to an extradition trial during a special sitting of the magistrate’s court at the Mobile Reserve headquarters in Kingston.
Yesterday, after the allegation were read out, Miller was asked to plead on the charge of perverting the course of justice and, with his head held high, responded, “Not guilty.”
“Asked his plea on the charge of harbouring a fugitive, Miller, on the advise of his lawyer, said, “Not guilty, sir”.
Speaking on Miller’s behalf, Wentworth Charles, one of two lawyers representing the pastor, told the court that the charges would be vigorously fought.
“We are going to be contesting very strongly the allegation outlined by the prosecution,” said Charles while describing the Crown’s version of events as “very wrong”.
At the end of the 10-minute proceedings, Miller was ordered to be fingerprinted by to the police and his $200,000 bail extended to July 27, when the case will again be mentioned. A trial date could be set on that day if an outstanding statement is secured to complete the case file.
Miller’s other lawyer is Leslie Campbell.