Former councillor tells extortion trial he can't remember snorting cocaine
THE trial of a man accused of trying to blackmail a former Fianna Fail councillor using pictures of him allegedly taking cocaine began yesterday.
Wesley Higgins (33) is accused of attempting to extort €5,000 from Liam Kelly by threatening to give the pictures to a newspaper. The pictures were printed in the 'Sunday World' newspaper shortly afterwards.
Mr Higgins of Dundaniel Road, Kilmore, Coolock, has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to demanding money with menaces from the former city councillor between August 6 and 12, 2006.
Mr Kelly said in evidence that he represented Finglas/ Glasnevin on Dublin City Council from 2004 to when he lost his seat in 2009. He told Tony McGillicuddy BL, prosecuting, that he knew Mr Higgins "superficially" after meeting him a few times.
Mr Kelly said that in early August 2006 Mr Higgins called him and invited him to a party.
The witness said he accepted the invitation because he was an alcoholic and "would have gone anywhere for more drink." He went to the party with Mr Higgins and an unnamed female.
Mr Kelly said that when they arrived there was no one else at the house but he decided to "just get on with drinking and chatting." He said he left in the early hours of the morning.
Mr Kelly said the accused left a message the next night and told him the female they were with at the party had taken photographs of him and wanted money for them.
The message continued that Mr Higgins was acting as a "middleman" and the woman wanted €5,000 for the photos. The accused also allegedly said he needed to be "looked after" as well.
A later message stated the accused was having difficulty stopping the woman going to the newspapers with the photographs. A final message stated the pictures showed the councillor snorting cocaine.
Mr Kelly told the jury that he ignored all the messages and had no recollection of snorting cocaine that night. He added that "blackouts" were a feature of his alcoholism.
He said on August 8, he was on the way to a function in the Mansion House when 'Sunday World' reporter Eugene Masterson confronted him in the street and asked him to come to his car to view the photos allegedly showing him taking cocaine.
He went to the journalist's car and identified himself in a photograph of him "inhaling a white powdery substance". He said it wasn't cocaine and that he wanted more time to explain.
He said he later went to the gardai and made a complaint alleging blackmail.
The trial continues before Judge Desmond Hogan and a jury of six men and six women.