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Potential Release of Extradited Money Laundering Suspect in St. Thomas Raises Questions About Prosecution’s Evidence



An individual, brought from the British Virgin Islands to St. Thomas under federal charges of money laundering and cash smuggling, may soon find himself a free man. This comes after the prosecution signaled a desire to drop the charges against him.

Nyron Erickson was scheduled to face trial this past Tuesday. Nonetheless, in an unexpected twist, a motion filed the previous week by the U.S. Attorney’s Office revealed doubts about the veracity of their evidence. The motion expressed concerns that the evidence at hand might not convince a jury of Erickson’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

Although the motion from August 17 noted that there was no contention from the opposing counsel, Erickson’s defense sharply countered this move. They argued that without a clear commitment from the prosecutors that the charges won’t be reinstated, the court should deny the request for dismissal.

A key point of contention lies in the nature of the dismissal – whether it is “with prejudice” or “without prejudice”. The former would permanently shut the door on the same charges being brought against Erickson, while the latter leaves the possibility of the case being reintroduced.

This uncertainty arose from an alleged verbal agreement between the prosecutors and defense attorneys to dismiss “with prejudice”. Yet, the official motion did not explicitly confirm this. The defense has since emphasized that a dismissal with prejudice is the just course of action.

Nyron Erickson’s legal battle traces back to the arrest of his alleged accomplices, Akil Erickson and Mikiel Robin, in October 2018. Both were apprehended with non-disclosed cash as they traveled from Tortola by ferry. Then, in August 2020, Nyron Erickson surrendered to the authorities in the British Virgin Islands over claims of his involvement in a global money laundering scheme. This culminated in his extradition to the U.S. in February 2023.

Yet, the case against him has been shaky. The defense highlighted that pivotal evidence – the testimony of a significant witness – could not be presented due to the individual’s absence. Moreover, they voiced doubts over the credibility of another piece of evidence, a text message allegedly sent from Nyron to Akil Erickson.

Given the extended period that the prosecution had to solidify their case against Erickson, his defense insists that if charges are to be dropped, it should be a permanent dismissal. The defense’s position is that any other action would simply prolong the ordeal for Erickson, casting prolonged doubts and distress upon him without substantial evidence.

In a related note, the case against Akil Erickson and Mikiel Robin was terminated in June 2020. This decision was propelled by District Court Judge Robert Molloy, who felt the prosecution had intentionally delayed their trial proceedings. Their charges were dropped with prejudice, marking a definitive end to their legal battles.

The court now awaits the government’s counter-response to the defense’s motion, which is due by Thursday, August 24. This case continues to spotlight the intricacies and challenges of international law and prosecution.

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Residents of U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam Contest Unfair Overseas Voting Laws at the Ninth Circuit Court



Inhabitants of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and additional territories are intensifying their battle against what they perceive as prejudiced federal and state overseas voting statutes. The ongoing Borja v. Nago case, presented to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, is a pivotal development in this struggle, seeking to contest these controversial laws.

This week witnessed the plaintiffs imploring the court to oppose the stance of the U.S. Justice Department, which contends that voting does not constitute a “fundamental right” for inhabitants of U.S. territories. According to the Justice Department, residents of these territories can exercise their voting rights for the presidential election through absentee ballots in their last state of residence, provided they live in a foreign country or the Northern Mariana Islands. However, this privilege is not granted to those residing in areas such as Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Moreover, the Justice Department maintains that, should these laws be ruled unconstitutional, the federal government would still be shielded from legal actions. They propose that states, like Hawaii, have the capability to rectify any damages caused by federal discrimination. The department also implies that revoking overseas voting rights in the Northern Mariana Islands might be a more suitable solution than granting equal rights universally.

Neil Weare, the co-director of Right to Democracy, voiced his disillusionment with the Justice Department’s perspective, stating, “The federal government’s ongoing efforts to undermine democracy, self-governance, and political influence in U.S. territories is deeply troubling.” He stressed the indispensability of voting rights, regardless of one’s domicile.

Parker Rider-Longmaid, the legal representative for the Borja plaintiffs, rebuked the Justice Department for defending such a discriminatory federal statute, emphasizing that it is the duty of the federal government to redress the inequalities induced by the law.

In the previous year, a Hawaii district court dismissed a challenge to these laws. Current rules allow residents of states, including Hawaii, who relocate to foreign countries or the Northern Mariana Islands, to retain their presidential voting rights via absentee ballots. Unfortunately, this right is not afforded to those moving to Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or other territories.

The case is currently in the queue for oral arguments in the Ninth Circuit, expected to be scheduled early in the forthcoming year.

In relation to this legal confrontation, Right to Democracy has launched a Territories Art Competition for adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17. The competition encourages participants to illustrate their perceptions of democracy through various mediums such as visual arts, prose, or music. Winners from each territory will be recognized and awarded. The deadline for submissions is October 10, 2023.

Neil Weare aspires for the youth in each territory to utilize this opportunity to articulate their democratic viewpoints, despite the Justice Department’s persistent denial of such rights in U.S. territories.

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Virgin Islands Port Authority Faces $477K FAA Penalty; Takes Immediate Action



The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recently proposed a civil fine of $477,000 against the Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) for alleged lapses in maintenance at St. Thomas’ Cyril E. King International Airport.

The FAA’s proposed penalty, made public this past Tuesday, originates from a series of inspections carried out in 2021 and 2022. These inspections uncovered multiple violations at Cyril E. King Airport, such as deteriorated runway and taxiway surfaces, inadequately graded and drained safety zones, and obstructions within these areas. Additional concerns raised by the FAA include faded or incorrect runway indicators, faulty or absent edge lighting on runways, and improper fuel storage and handling procedures. The FAA also criticized VIPA for not issuing a critical Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), which would have informed airlines about a specific issue with the runway.

Responding promptly to the FAA’s enforcement notice, VIPA issued a statement this Thursday. Carlton Dowe, the Executive Director of VIPA, provided further details on the matter. He acknowledged that while some of the issues were already on VIPA’s radar, several were newly identified in the FAA’s August 23 communication.

Dowe stressed VIPA’s proactive approach in addressing these concerns. “We’ve already submitted a comprehensive response to the FAA, supported by extensive documentation. This proves that many of the cited deficiencies have either been resolved, are currently being addressed, or simply do not exist,” Dowe said. He also highlighted VIPA’s ongoing partnership with the FAA’s Atlanta Airports District Office to plan and implement capital projects aimed at ensuring compliance.

Dowe also took the opportunity to spotlight VIPA’s commitment to safety and infrastructure improvements at Cyril E. King Airport. “We’re allocating more than $29 million for safety upgrades, and additional projects, such as runway rehabilitation, are also in the works,” he noted. Dowe elaborated on the logistical hurdles of operating a single-runway airport like Cyril E. King. “It’s not practical to shut down the runway for repairs. Therefore, we’ve scheduled most of our repair work for nighttime to minimize disruption to flight schedules,” he added.

As discussions with the FAA are ongoing, Dowe reassured the public that operations at Cyril E. King Airport would continue without interruption.

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Momentum Builds for Plaskett’s Bill to Halt NPS Expansion in St. John Amid Calls for Fixed Park Boundaries



In a recent exclusive discussion, Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett shed light on the growing legislative movement aimed at curbing the expansion of the National Park Service (NPS) on the island of St. John. This initiative comes in response to the concerns of local inhabitants who feel increasingly hemmed in by federally controlled lands.

During the interview, Plaskett touched upon the controversial land exchange involving Whistling Cay and a federal land parcel in Estate Catherineberg. She expressed that the swap was a necessary action given the current circumstances. However, she also recognized the deep-seated emotional responses from the residents of St. John, attributing them to the island’s historical relationship with the NPS.

With the NPS currently owning an estimated 60% of St. John, Plaskett posed the question, “The National Park’s establishment was undoubtedly a positive development, but at what expense?” She revealed that a bill is underway to permanently establish the boundaries of the Virgin Islands National Park, thereby preventing any future territorial growth by the NPS. The legislation has already undergone its preliminary hearing in the House of Representatives.

Senator Angus King of Maine, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has pledged his support for the initiative. Plaskett dismissed the notion that the park’s existing boundaries could be reduced, citing President Biden’s unwillingness to establish such a precedent. The President has indicated that he would not endorse any measures that could trigger a flood of similar requests from other states and territories.

Plaskett also clarified misconceptions surrounding a land transfer in Maine, which some Virgin Islanders cited as proof that the NPS could relinquish lands without a reciprocal exchange. She explained that the Maine transfer was the culmination of a 30-year-old legislative agreement, not a unilateral land gift from the NPS.

The congresswoman emphasized that the bill to cement the Virgin Islands National Park’s boundaries is gaining traction. A companion bill is currently being drafted in the Senate to expedite the legislative process. To further bolster the bill’s chances of success, Plaskett has arranged for Senate staff to visit St. John and engage with the local community, as the island’s future has implications for the entire Virgin Islands territory.

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