Belize Lawyer Receives 10 year Sentence Abetment To Murder

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High Court Justice Nigel Pilgrim has handed down a ten-year sentence to Oscar Selgado, effective 8 March 2024, emphasizing that “no sacred cows and no one is above the law.”

Selgado, a fifty-four-year-old criminal defence attorney, was found guilty of abetment to commit murder earlier in March. The case stemmed from Selgado’s attempt to hire gang member Giovanni Ramirez to carry out the murder of Marilyn Barnes, who had filed a complaint with the General Legal Counsel against Selgado for unethical behavior. The GLC is the body that exercises discipline on legal practitioners in Belize, including disbarment. Ramirez served as the prosecution’s key witness, with Justice Pilgrim deeming his testimony truthful and reliable.

The key evidence in the case rested on audio recordings Ramirez made of his conversations with Selgado, and which he, Ramirez, forwarded to Commissioner Of Police Chester Williams via WhatsApp. The forensic evidence recordings later disappeared from the office of the Director Of Public Prosecutions, but the court accepted testimony given by Williams and the arresting police officer Assistant Superintendent of Police Wilfredo Ferrufino who stated that they had listened to the recordings and confirmed that they recognised the voice of Oscar Selgado.

This marks the first instance of a practicing attorney being convicted of such a crime. Throughout the trial, Selgado was represented by Adolph Lucas Sr. Selgado has been in custody since being charged.

In May, Selgado’s new attorney, Arthur Saldivar, pushed for a non-custodial sentence for his client, citing Selgado’s diabetic condition as a central concern. Reports indicate that Selgado’s health has deteriorated in Belize Central Prison due to insufficient nutrition and the absence of a full-time doctor. The High Court took these factors into account, with various witnesses, including a medical professional and Virgilio Murillo, CEO of the Belize Central Prison, providing testimony.