Jonathan G. Ngarambe might want to be more careful with where he is looking in the future. In a trial of a gang-rape case, a prosecutor thought that he saw Ngarambe catch the eye of one of the defendants. After an investigation, Ngarambe admitted that he lied to the court in denying that he had any relationship with any of the parties in the case. Ngarambe, 23, in fact knew two of the defendants and also had prior contact with the alleged victim, who was a high school classmate. Ngarambe has now pleaded guilty to perjury and Judge John Lu has sentenced him to an impressive two years in jail.
Ngarambe was put on the jury pool in the Superior Court trial of Rafael Nino Brito, 22, Luis Arias, 22, and Justin Louf, 21. They were charged with the aggravated rape of a 17-year-old Salem girl on Feb. 15, 2008 after a basketball game.
Notably, Ngarambe’s court-appointed lawyer, James Craig, previously defended his client by noting that he had nearly 5,000 Facebook friends and many followers on Twitter due to his work as a club promoter. The judge clearly viewed this as more than a couple of passing Facebook friends.
However, Facebook was key to the charge. Police found that Ngarambe was listed as a friend of Brito on Facebook and that Arias was listed as a follower of Ngarambe on Twitter. Yet, Ngarambe’s defense counsel insisted that he misunderstood the meaning of “friend” in the court’s questioning.
Originally, the prosecutors sought to convict Ngarambe on intimidation of a witness — a serious stretch of the common interpretation of that charge. The prosecutors insisted that misleading the court and prosecutors impacted the administration of justice and should be considered juror intimidation. I fail to see the good-faith basis for such an interpretation while prejury is clearly implicated.