Asst. AG Ernest Bason Is Back, in Traffic Court, Serving as Prosecutor – and Judge

Longtime V.I. Justice Department popinjay Ernest Bason has found a way to lose cases — even when serving as both prosecutor and judge.

Assistant Attorney General Bason, who was last seen in court testifying he had resigned from the V.I. Attorney General’s office when the case of the two murdered New York City tourists began to unravel last fall, had been chief factotum in the Attorney General’s criminal division.

Infamous for his 2006 handling of the David Geiger murder case on St. John in which one man was convicted of second degree murder while charges were dropped against his accomplices, Bason put in an appearance on St. John for traffic court on Friday, May 18, and displayed the wisdom of Solomon in his latest role as an assistant attorney general.

Bason, who later told St. John Tradewinds he had to return to the Attorney General’s office from a short stint as legal counsel to the V.I. Police Department because of a technical snag, put his relationship with the police department to full use in traffic court, acting as prosecutor and judge for a handful of motor vehicle cases.

Unfortunately it did not help Bason’s rate of successful prosecution.

Charges Dropped, After Guilty Pleas
Twice, Bason was faced with the legal challenge of dismissing charges against motor vehicle miscreants who had already plead guilty — a complex legal maneuver which Bason handled with deft expediency.

One of the accused admitted he had struck another vehicle on Centerline Road and plead guilty, but said he had made restitution. After conferring with the police officer at the prosecutor’s table, Bason immediately made a motion that the motor vehicle charges related to the accident be dismissed.

At that point, Bason apparently granted his own motion and the next case was called.

As the morning went on, it almost appeared as if there were a secret code for the day — plead guilty and Bason would make a motion to drop the charges; plead not guilty and your case would be continued for two months — or so.

In another case, a rental car company owner appeared on behalf of customers who had been cited for not having a registration for their rental vehicle. The businessman offered some paperwork, but Bason didn’t bother to review the documents as he expeditiously moved for the case to be dismissed.

The long-time V.I. Justice Department attorney later explained that the motions to dismiss were based on the advice of the police officers who had written the tickets.

Things were going so smoothly that it really wasn’t noticeable that the woman shuffling the court documents never sat in the judge’s chair.

Prosecutor and Judge
By the time my case was called (I was last because I wasn’t on the calendar, although my ticket for “No front license plate” said the court date was May 18), I thought I knew the legal proceedings.

When the woman standing next to the judge’s seat shuffling papers asked how I plead, I said “not guilty” and made a motion for the ticket to be dismissed because I had a front license plate clearly visible on my dashboard when the ticket was issued.

That’s when the woman running things pointed out only a judge could dismiss a case.

I knew that.

I was just a little confused.

About then I realized the whole morning’s activities had occurred without the benefit of a judge.

When I asked why the prosecutor, who I only learned was Bason after court, had already dismissed a handful of cases without a judge being involved, the woman in charge said I would have to discuss that with the prosecutor.

When I pointed out that Bason couldn’t be both the prosecutor and the judge, the marshal hurried to my side as if I were an imminent threat to the judge — or Bason.

At that point the prosecutor moved for a continuance until July 13.

Completing a successful day of jurisprudence, Bason approved his own motion.