Paynesville-An undercover reporter of journalRAGE who was wrongly charged with ‘intent and desire to commit homosexuality’ when he took a complaint of robbery against a suspect has seen his charges dropped with the main suspect being properly charged.
Abel Sumo, 32 (name changed to protect his identity) was initially charged with ‘intent to commit homosexuality’ by the commander of the Crime Service Department (CSD), Joseph Yancy, at the Zone 5 Police Depot in Joe Bar, Paynesville.
Sumo was arrested by the Liberia National Police today, August 20, at the Zone 5 Police Depot in Joe Bar, Paynesville when he took a complaint of robbery against a young man who goes by the Facebook moniker, King Derrick the Change.
He was allegedly robbed by Derrick on Tuesday, August 16, during the evening hours when he visited the suspect based on an invitation extended to him.
According to Sumo, he became acquainted with the suspect via Facebook and after several rounds of chatting on messenger, he invited the suspect to visit his residence in Sinkor.
He narrated that following the visit, Derrick subsequently invited him to visit his residence in the Rock Hill community of GSA Road, Paynesville. However, he added, he kept putting it off because he was a bit uneasy about doing so.
On Tuesday, August 16, while on his way to Kakata, Sumo said he called the suspect, informing him that he was passing via Paynesville. “I told him I was going to stop to see him before I go back.”
The journalRAGE reporter revealed that the suspect took him to a dilapidated mud structure, and told him it was his residence.
“He wanted me to go in the room to relax, but I told him I was ok with sitting outside since there were no chairs in the room.”
Sumo said it was in that instant that a shabby-looking friend of the suspect came around and asked to see him.
According to our reporter, Derrick and his friend walked away from him and began to talk in a hushed tone.
“I was concerned about why they were whispering,” he said “When he came back, I asked him why he was whispering with his friend, and I was feeling uncomfortable and wanted to leave. He told me the man came for money to buy weed.
Our reporter furthered that while he was about to leave, he saw three men approaching him with knives and scissors.
“Soon as I saw the men coming to me, Derrick stood and pointed to me saying, ‘here’s the man who said he wanted f****k me. They came while I stood looking dumbfounded and started to rush on me and took my phone, watch, wallet which had money in it, and my sneakers from my feet. They were slapping me in the process.”
LGBTQ Liberians continue to face widespread threats, assault, harassment, and hate speech, according to the 2020 U.S. State Department Human Rights report. LGBTQ Liberians have faced an uptick in harassment and attacks in the last year.
Last October 2020, ex-personnel of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Cheeseman Cole, was arrested, for reportedly “catfishing” over 27 men on social media and brutalizing them when they showed up at his residence. He claimed it was a divine mission ordained by God to cleanse Liberia of its LGBTQ population.
Two men—Dominic Renner and Winston Toe— remain missing from Cole’s attacks. The Liberia National Police has not released an update on the status of the investigation.
Though Cole was investigated, forwarded to the court, and detained for a brief period at the Monrovia Central Prison, he is currently free on bail awaiting prosecution by the Ministry of Justice.
The spokesperson of the Ministry of Justice, Maude Somah, at the time said her boss, Solicitor General Syrenius Cephus, is following up with the county attorney on the status of the prosecution. Cephus has been suspended by President Weah after being sanctioned by the US Government.
Liberian law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults. Articles 14.74, 14.79, and 50.7 [of the Penal Code of 1976] consider voluntary sodomy as a first-degree misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to one-year imprisonment.
Though the country has not defined its stance on the protection of the rights of its LGBT population, Attorney General, F. Musah Dean, during the launch of the UN SOGIE report in November 2020 at a private resort said the Liberian constitution guarantees protection for all.
Recently, a student of the Trinity United Methodist School was expelled for crossdressing when a viral video on Facebook showed him in a playful but fiery exchange with a female street preacher who had sought to preach damnation upon him.
The election of U.S. President Joe Biden with a promise of protection of LGBTQ communities worldwide ignited a glimmer of hope for the Liberian gay community.
A gang in Paynesville Targeting Gay men on social media
King Derrick is part of a larger gang in Paynesville that is targeting men suspected of being gay on Facebook that the Curator-in-chief of journalRAGE has been investigating.
The gang is led by a young man whose Facebook name is Keenon Jackson.
The gang, which operates between the SD Cooper Road, ELWA Junction, and the GSA road communities of Paynesville, have been fond of using social media to lure men suspected of being gay on Facebook.
Before the robbery of our reporter, journalRAGE recorded the stories of many men who had fallen prey to the activities of the gang in the Paynesville belt.
Many of the victims have been afraid to go to the media for fear of being stigmatized.
Following the robbery against journalRAGE’s reporter which was watched by several community dwellers who were reportedly afraid to intervene, a distraught and teary-eyed Sumo pondered over ways to get home.
He said as he walked home, a lady in the community who was afraid of the suspect and his gang, showed him the home of his parents of Derrick who, he revealed, pastor a local church.
“A young lady in the community who saw everything that transpired took me to Derrick’s parents’ house. She said the act of robbing people by Derrick and his friends is habitual.”
There, he said, he acquainted the parents of the suspect of his doings, and they had sought to keep everything under the wraps and had promised to make available their son.
“They told me to come during the evening hours of the next day. Right away I went to the Police station to register the case. I went there the next day with two plain clothes Police officers who, upon seeing the suspect, wanted to arrest him but were prevented by doing so by Derrick’s family and friends.”
He revealed further that he was called by Atty. George Saah, a lawyer, and journalist who, he said, insulted and threatened him. Atty. Saah is a member of the Unity Party and serves on the campaign of former Vice President, Joseph N. Boakai. He could not be reached for comment.
Frustrated over this, our reporter visited the Police depot today accompanied by the Curator-in-Chief of journalRAGE, Gboko Stewart.
Upon arrival, the team met the commander of the Crime Service Department, Joseph Yancy. He was briefed on the status of the case by the journalRAGE staff and one of the officers who had accompanied him to arrest Derrick.
Minutes later, accompanied by his father and Atty. Saah, the suspect, and his family made an appearance at the depot and were ushered into the investigative room.
During the investigation, suspect Derrick admitted to knowing the complainant via Facebook and also corroborated claims that he visited the suspect at his residence. He alleged that journalRAGE reporter expressed an intimate desire for him.
Following investigation and series of questioning, Commander Yancy requested journalRAGE’s reporter to see evidence of communication between him and the suspect.
Following a review of the message, journalRAGE’s reporter was charged with ‘intent to commit homosexuality’ by the Police.
When the News Curator who had been quiet throughout the proceeding inquire from the commander about the basis of the charge and the reliance on the law, he quickly pointed to the penal code.
Countering, the News Curator followed up that section 14.79 considers voluntary sodomy a first-degree misdemeanor, and the complainant and the suspect weren’t caught in any suggestive act as per the law, the CSD commander said the complainant and defendant possessed the intent and desire to commit homosexuality.
When the News Curator of journalRAGE requested for his phone which was used to log into Facebook to show the exchanges between our reporter and the suspect, Commander Yancy declared that it is part of the crime and evidence.
The men were transferred to the Women and Children Division of the depot.
Opened Arms, an underground LGBT organization has condemned the robbery of journalRAGE’s reporter.
“Open arms strongly condemns the increasing luring and attract of LGBT persons here in Liberia,” the organization said in a statement.
“The community will continue to stand and speak against such violence until such inhumane act is condemned by national security.”
Editor’s Note: The News Curator’s phone has been returned.
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