KINGSTON, Jamaica – Veteran entertainer, Desmond Ballentine, more popularly known as Ninjaman, was convicted of murder and shooting with intent by a seven-member jury in Jamaica’s Home Circuit Court on Monday.
The prosecution, led by Kathy Pike and Nicholas Edmonds, successfully made submission to the jury and Justice Martin Gayle, that Ballentine, his son Janiel and Dennis Clayton, conspired to kill Ricardo Johnson on the morning of March 17, 2009. Janiel and Clayton were also found guilty of murder.
Ninjaman was first taken into custody in 2009 but, along with his co-accused, was released on bail after three years behind bars.
The case had 17 missed trial dates and 23 mention dates over the eight-year span, before finally getting underway last month, when Justice Gayle revoked the bail for all the accused and ordered an immediate start to the in-camera trial.The jury of four men and three women heard evidence from seven witnesses.
According to Jamaica’s Director of Public Prosecution, Paula Llewellyn, who spoke to the media after the verdict, evidence in the trial showed that Johnson met his demise after he got involved in an argument on March 16, 2009 with another tenant on the premises that he lived.
That tenant, an elderly woman, called her granddaughter, who in turn, called Clayton, her boyfriend at the time and the father of her children. Clayton came to the house and got involved in a fist fight with Johnson, which the latter lost.
Llewellyn, said that the evidence given, was that while the elderly woman had support from her granddaughter and Clayton, the owner of the property, referred to in court as Witness A, was supporting Johnson in the dispute. Witness A’s identity was not disclosed as he is in the witness protection programme.
Clayton, with a cutlass, would return at 8:00 am the next day and engaged Johnson and Witness A in another bout of arguing, during which Janiel drove a motor car to the scene and verbally attacked Johnson and Witness A with threats. Stones were thrown before Johnson and Witness A walked away from the fuss.
Witness A visited Johnson at home later that morning during which, the same motor car was driven to the scene again, this time with Clayton and Ninjaman, with the latter exiting the vehicle and threatening both, as well as a cousin of Johnson who had intervened in the dispute.
The evidence given is that the two Ballentines and Clayton drove away in the vehicle, before Clayton, still with the machete, returned with another set of men, who were armed with bats and boards. On seeing the approaching men, Witness A and Johnson ran off in different directions.
While fleeing, Witness A encountered Ninjaman, who had a gun and fired at him. The evidence is that Witness A ran to the back of Johnson’s premises, where he saw him, and the two ran through a hole in the fencing of the property.
Witness A ran some distance up the road and when he looked back, he saw Johnson pushing back on the fence to prevent his attackers from coming through. Johnson was also using a machete to chop at the fence.
According to the evidence, Witness A then heard a loud explosion coming from the other side of the fence, after which he saw what appeared to be blood coming from Johnson’s side. The deceased would then scream that he was shot.
Witness A testified that he saw Clayton briefly looked over the fence before disappearing, after which, Johnson died.
Llewellyn said, that all three were placed at the scene by different witnesses during the trial.
Queen’s Counsel Valerie Neita-Robertson represented Ninjaman, with Gladstone Wilson appearing for Clayton and Linton Walters for Janiel.
The three will be sentenced on December 15.