/ 2 September 2009

Motata found guilty of drunken driving

Pretoria High Court Judge Nkola Motata was found guilty of drunken driving by the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.

”I find that you were under the influence of an intoxicating liquor at the time of a crash into a wall,” said Magistrate Desmond Nair.

Responding to the judgement state prosecutor Zaais van Zyl said: ”The decision to prosecute has been vindicated.”

The case, which has spanned two years, relates to an incident in January 2007 when Motata crashed his Jaguar into the wall of a Hurlingham property, north of Johannesburg.

Nair said audio recordings taken by the owner of the property, Richard Baird, at the scene of the accident brought to mind the saying ”if a picture told a thousand words, the audio recordings told ten thousand words”.

Nair said Motata was acquitted of the other charges — of obstructing the ends of justice and an alternative charge for resisting arrest.

He said he could not find that Motata had an ”intention” to hinder justice, but rather he was more ”difficult and quarrelsome” because he was drunk.

In terms of alternative charge of resisting arrest, Nair said he could not find a criminal intent to do this and also that police were inconsistent about who actually read him his rights.

Asked about the acquittal on these charges prosecutor Van Zyl said the case ”was all along about drunken driving”.

Motata’s defence counsel Bantubonke Tokoto said he would only make a decision on whether or not to appeal once everything was finalised.

Asked about the judgement Tokoto said: ”We will have to consider it.”

Motata said he was ”happy with the acquittal”. He told journalists he was well, but ”you’ll never hear anything from me”.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) acting spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said the NPA was pleased with the judgement.

”Justice was not only done but manifestly seen to be done,” he said.

The case was marked by several delays as well as a trial-within-a-trial to determine the admissibility of Baird’s audio recording. In addition, Motata twice changed his legal team.

During closing arguments in July this year, defence lawyer Bantubonke Tokoto said that relying on Baird’s testimony was ”too dangerous” as he was a complainant and not an independent witness.

Tokoto said Baird’s audio recordings were selective and could have been manipulated.

”We insist Baird was biased,” said Tokoto.

However, prosecutor Van Zyl said the evidence by Baird was reliable proof which showed Motata’s slurred speech as indicative of being intoxicated.

He also said Motata smelt of alcohol and was aggressive in refusing arrest.

”He held onto the steering wheel with both hands, refusing to be arrested. He even put his foot at the door and fell when he was lifted out of the vehicle. He was definitely not cooperative.”

It was later ruled that the recordings were admissible.

Baird on Wednesday said: ”I feel vindicated [after being called a racist].”

Sentencing will take place on September 9.