The ever-unfolding Ato Stephens saga

Ato Stephens being escorted from court on 21 Feb. 2017 (Photo courtesy: Cayman 27)

The Cayman Islands Athletic Association (CIAA) executive committee is due to hold an emergency meeting Monday, 12 February, as the saga surrounding former track and field coach Ato Stephens continues to unfold.

Stephens was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment last August for the abusing an information and communications technology network by having exchanges that were sexual in nature with the girl, who was 14 years-old at the time. He was found not guilty of indecent assault or gross indecency.

Last week, the Office of the Premier denied reports that it had taken a decision against deporting Stephens, a former Trinidad and Tobago Olympian, who also holds United States passport.

The Grand Court has made a recommendation for the 38-year-old to be deported. Cabinet is the body that ultimately determines if a non-Caymanian is to be sent from the jurisdiction.

“When deportation is recommended by the Court, Cabinet considers the circumstances of the case, the law, any connections which the convicted person may have to the Cayman Islands and the rights, including the right to family life, accorded everyone under the Bill of Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities enshrined in the Cayman Islands Constitution,” a statement from the Office of the Premier explained.

“The Cabinet is also required to take into consideration the seriousness of the offence, the risks posed to the community by the continued residence here of the convicted person. Based on all these factors, Cabinet then makes a determination as to whether or not it is appropriate to make a deportation order. This is the process that will be followed in Mr. Stephens’ case as it is in every case where deportation is being considered,” it added.

Later in the week, Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller called on government “to send a very strong message” by deporting the 2005 CAC Championships silver medallist in the 400m.

“The government has a responsibility to respect the recommendation of the court and the requirements of the law,” Mr Miller said.

“We have seen no evidence of remorse for his crime, and when we consider that he was in a position of trust in his role of coaching our young athletes, I believe the court’s recommendation must be carried out without delay,” he added.

Ato Stephens (LinkedIn photo)

Now, having been granted conditional release until his sentence is completed in February 2019, Stephens has threatened the CIAA with legal action. He has claimed the sporting body violated his human rights and its own constitution by banning him in November.

“The unlawful actions of CIAA without following the due process of law and taking unilateral actions based on hearsay has caused mental torture and degrading treatment to me and my family by accusing me of sexual offences, of which I was acquitted by a court of law,” Stephens said in a communication to the CIAA executive, of which his wife, Cydonie Mothersill, serves as general secretary.

“Through this letter I am informing you that I reserve the right to initiate legal proceedings against the CIAA for taking unlawful actions in violation of its own constitution and the violations of my human rights protected under the Cayman Islands Constitution 2009. I seek immediate withdrawal and annulment of the said proceedings in the first instance in an official CIAA letter,” he stated, giving the body seven days before he takes legal action.

Athletics President Lance Barnes said he was confident the CIAA acted within the rules when it expelled the former track coach. He also said a conflict of interest had emerged since Mothersill sat on the executive when a unanimous decision was taken against Stephens.

As an athlete, Stephens represented Trinidad and Tobago at the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics but never advanced beyond the heats. He also ran at the IAAF World Championships in 2001, 2005 and 2007. He won a bronze medal for his home country at the 2003 CAC Championships, and took the silver at the 2005 edition.

He was banned from competition for two years after failing a drugs test at an international competition in May 2009, testing positive for steroids and a testosterone-boosting drug. will continue tracking developments in this story.

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