Gets Suspended w/o Pay!
Lake Independence area Representative Mark King rose to public prominence for his volatile public behaviour - and tonight that volatility has him in the Prime Minister's dog House and facing multiple criminal charges.
Last night King was caught up in what might be called a "hot mess" at the Princess Casino near the Belize Mexico border. 7news has been following the story since morning and Jules Vasquez reports:..
Jules Vasquez reporting
This is the Princess Casino just outside the Corozal Free Zone and right next to the Belize Mexico Bridge.
It's the last stop before you get to the bridge - and reports say this is where Mark King and a number of associates were this morning at 2:00 am. That's when one of his male associates was reportedly caught with a female in the men's bathroom - and that man was ejected from the Casino.
Reports say that King became incensed at this and had a temper tantrum - ripping down decorations inside the casino, berating staff and even assaulting the manager. We are told King ended up sitting on the floor of the Casino.
Eventually he and his companions were thrown out - which is when multiple reports say shots were fired outside the casino as an act of defiance.
We stress that the Casino management denies that anything happened inside - and pointed us to this police booth where they say most of the acting up happened.
From there we are told that King and his entourage headed to the border station where they had a confrontation with police who were trying to arrest one of the men in an unruly group. Reliable reports say one of King's group was detained and King then jumped into the police pickup.
He could not be reached for comments despite numerous attempts - and the police press office conveniently omitted his name form the official release on the incident.
The most we know officially comes from a Cabinet release which says that "Mark King was involved in behavior not consistent with his obligations as a Minister of State."
It adds that police "will be laying charges of disorderly conduct and threatening words on…King." We are told he may also be charged with aggravated assault. By midday the Prime Minister had announced King's three month suspension without pay.
The only man police did mention in their sanitized report was this man, 22 year old Diego Witz Jr. According to police, he was the first person escorted out of the Casino at 2:30 am - who police witnessed trying to hit one of the security guards. A PC Ramos intervened and Diego Witz allegedly pushed him and punched him in the face. Witz Jr. was subdued and held until this afternoon at 2:30 when he was taken to Corozal Magistrate's court. He was read a single count of ?Assaulting PC Ramos and pleaded not guilty. He was granted bail of four thousand dollars and will re-appear on April 16th. Despite repeated requests form the media, he refused to comment.
The relationship between King and Witz is not known but they were both thrown out of the casino at around the same time. Corozal police refused comment saying they need to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation. We note also that the Prime Minister's Office announced King's charges before police had even mentioned his name in a police report.
Police are presently reviewing footage from multiple security cameras - namely those inside the casino - which show King at the height of his tantrum and the footage from the Belize border station. Both the Casino and the Border Management agency refused to release those surveillance videos.
The swift decision from Cabinet said that King would "issue a statement of apology to his constituency, colleagues, and the country." Well, by 5:00 pm, he did. The statement appears less than contrite; it says quote, "My fellow Belizeans, by now you would have learnt through the media that I was involved in an incident while socializing at the Princess Hotel & Casino in Corozal, which resulted in a breach of the peace and the imposition of charges against me by the Police." It continues,
"While I make no admission of wrong-doing and will take all necessary steps to be properly represented at the trial of those charges, I want you all to know that I am very sorry and deeply regret that this incident occurred."
It concludes, quote,
"I apologize to you, the Belizean people, members of my constituency and to all my Cabinet colleagues for this unfortunate incident."
King is expected to be arraigned on those criminal charges at The Corozal Magistrate's Court tomorrow - becoming only the second Minister or Minister of State to face criminal charges. Marcial Mes was charged criminally during the last PUP term. Until the time of his suspension, King was Minister of state in the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation, Poverty Alleviation and Peace in Progress.
And while the PM took immediate punitive measures, the PUP says it's not enough, in fact, it's not even close. In a statement, the PUP calls the response "feeble." It adds that quote, "Elected officials, and in particular Ministers of Government, should be held at a higher standard than ordinary Belizeans…. As such, the PUP views the sanction imposed by the Prime Minister as a slap on the wrist and calls for the immediate removal of Mark King from office." End of quote.
The PUP says that King is also guilty of a breach of the Code of Conduct under Section 121 of the Constitution of Belize.
Observers point out that King has had a long history of bizarre public and political behaviour; for example, walking on the railing of the national assembly. He also, very famously, went on a rant against his own Mayor in 2008.
Honorable Mark King issues statement regarding Princess Hotel & Casino Incident
My fellow Belizeans, by now you would have learnt through the media that I was
involved in an incident while socializing at the Princess Hotel & Casino in Corozal,
which resulted in a breach of the peace and the imposition of charges against me by
While I make no admission of wrong-doing and will take all necessary steps to be
properly represented at the trial of those charges, I want you all to know that I am
very sorry and deeply regret that this incident occurred.
I apologize to you, the Belizean people, members of my constituency and to all my
Cabinet colleagues for this unfortunate incident.