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Ex-British Virgin Islands premier remains locked up as judge struggles to resolve jury’s post-verdict problem

By Jay Weaver, Miami Herald
Published: February 22, 2024, 10:30am

MIAMI — While the ex-premier of the British Virgin Islands remains locked up in Miami after being convicted of cocaine smuggling, a federal judge still cannot figure out how to resolve doubts raised by a couple of jurors about their guilty verdicts nearly two weeks ago.

U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams said this week that she wants both sides — federal prosecutors and defense attorneys who are at loggerheads — to return to her courtroom on March 7 with a potential legal solution to the seemingly intractable problem.

“From the start, this has been an unusual case in many respects,” Williams said Tuesday at the end of a court hearing.

Unprecedented might be more like it.

On Feb. 8, the 12-person jury found ex-BVI premier Andrew Fahie guilty of conspiring to import cocaine through the British territory to the United States and three related money-laundering and racketeering charges. After the verdict, the judge polled each of the jurors, who confirmed that Fahie, 53, was guilty of the four charges. Williams then discharged the jurors.

But within minutes of being officially let go, two of the jurors — a man and a woman — contacted the judge to say they had misgivings about their verdicts, setting the stage for an unusually rare post-trial dispute.

Federal prosecutors said the judge should stick to the original verdicts, arguing there’s no legal basis to bring the two jurors back into court to question them about their verdicts. The prosecutors pointed out there’s no evidence of a verdict mistake, internal or external pressure on the jury, or racist attitudes toward the defendant.

Defense attorneys countered that, despite constitutional limits on questioning a jury about deliberations, there’s no reason why the two jurors with doubts about their verdicts cannot be polled again by the judge. They stressed that the cocaine trafficking conviction carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years up to life in prison.

Williams, expressing frustration over finding a legal basis to resolve the verdict problem, called their discussions “meaningful.” But she pressed both sides to continue examining past cases in South Florida and around the country to help her reach a “just solution.”

“Hopefully, our discussions will be fruitful,” Fahie’s defense attorney, Theresa Van Vliet, told the judge. “There’s no lack of trying.”

Williams, meanwhile, cautioned both sides about having any contact with the 12 jurors who served at Fahie’s trial.

Juror called one of the defense attorneys

Her concern arose because one of the jurors with apparent misgivings spoke by phone with one of the politician’s defense attorneys the day after the guilty verdicts, according to a court document.

“He told me who he was and I said I remembered him,” attorney Joyce Delgado wrote in a Feb. 9 email, pointing out that she was returning the juror’s calls left at her law office.

“He then blurted out that he wanted to know what was happening with the case because he’s worried that if all the jurors are asked to return that they will ‘never come to an agreement’ so he wants to know what the process is,” Delgado wrote in the email, summarizing the exchange to her colleague, Van Vliet.

Delgado said she didn’t know and told the juror that it was “inappropriate” for them to talk and hung up.

That conversation — along with two prior phone-call attempts and a voicemail message from the same juror — has become part of a growing body of evidence in the post-verdict controversy over the Miami federal jury’s decision to convict the ex-BVI premier.

Minutes after the verdicts were published and jurors discharged, two of the panelists contacted the judge’s staff. In short, both said “the verdicts as published had not, in fact, been their verdicts,” according to a court filing by Fahie’s lawyers, Delgado and Van Vliet.

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The filing said Williams discussed the startling revelations with both sides, and then brought both jurors into the courtroom on the evening of Feb. 8, letting them know that she would be opening an inquiry and contacting them.

What next?

In their filing, Fahie’s defense lawyers said the judge has the latitude to ask the two jurors in question about their verdicts on the four charges against the ex-BVI premier.

“The parties appear to agree that the court has discretion in deciding whether to conduct the requested inquiry,” the defense lawyers wrote in court papers. “The defense asks, at this point, only for effectively a repolling of the jury or at minimum the two jurors in question.”

But prosecutors Kevin Gerarde and Sean McLaughlin sharply disagreed with that approach, noting there’s no apparent legal reason to question any of the jurors again about their verdicts because “the defendant has not alleged any juror misconduct.”

“Instead, the defendant seeks to explore — through juror interviews — whether any such misconduct may have occurred,” they wrote in court papers filed Monday. “This type of speculative request remains expressly prohibited under (the law).”

Earlier this month, the 12 Miami federal jurors deliberated for only four hours before reaching their guilty verdicts on the four drug-related charges against the former British Virgin Islands premier.

Fahie was arrested in April 2022 in Miami following a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sting operation. He was free on a bond and living with his daughter before trial, but after his conviction he was ordered held at the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami. His sentencing is set for April 29 before Judge Williams.

The case against the premier

The U.S. government made its cocaine-smuggling case against the former British Virgin Islands premier by casting a confidential informant as the Mexican cartel trafficker. The informant, who went by the name “Roberto,” collected hundreds of recorded conversations and text messages with Fahie while they discussed million-dollar bribery payments for access to the British territory, prosecutors said.

Fahie agreed to let thousands of kilos of cocaine pass through the country’s ports to be sold in the United States because of his “greed, arrogance and corruption,” prosecutors added, claiming Fahie needed the bribery payments to build a waterfront mansion in the British Virgin Islands.

Fahie’s defense team argued that he had no intention of using his power to enrich himself on cocaine shipments to the United States. Rather, his lawyers argued that he was “framed” by the United Kingdom, which controls the BVI archipelago as an overseas territory.

Nonetheless, the trial evidence revealed that the sting operation was directed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, not the British government. At the time of the DEA sting, the U.K. government was concluding a corruption investigation of Fahie’s administration — but British authorities noted it was not related to the DEA’s sting.

Visit to Miami led to demise

Fahie’s demise came on April 28, 2022, when he and BVI’s port director, Oleanvine Pickering Maynard, were visiting Miami for a cruise convention. During their visit, they were lured to Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport to check on a $700,000 payment that was promised to them by the DEA informant pretending to be a member of the Sinaloa cartel.

The sting culminated with the arrests of Fahie and Maynard, 61, leading to an indictment charging them with conspiring to import cocaine and engage in money laundering, along with attempted money laundering and racketeering. Maynard’s son, Kadeem Stephan Maynard, 32, was also arrested in the Caribbean, brought to Miami and added as the third defendant.

After his arrest, Fahie was stripped of his official position as BVI’s premier, which he held from February 2019 to early May 2022.