Man apologises for uploading offensive video about magistrate Joe Mifsud

In a video uploaded on YouTube, the man made a number of slanderous allegations about the magistrate’s character and family

Magistrate Joe Mifsud
Magistrate Joe Mifsud

A man has formally apologised after being arraigned under arrest on charges of reviling a magistrate after uploading an offensive video about Magistrate Joe Mifsud to video sharing site Youtube.

54-year-old Joseph Ebejer posted the 11-minute rant after being displeased with a decision by the magistrate.

In the video, in which Ebejer addresses the magistrate directly, he makes a number of slanderous allegations about the magistrate’s character and family.

When the case was called before magistrate Josette Demicoli this morning, Ebejer’s legal aid lawyer Noel Bartolo informed the court that he might have a conflict of interest as he is the legal representative of the court’s administration in court cases. Additionally, the accused’s previous lawyer, Ludvig Caruana, had renounced his patronage of the man, prosecuting inspector Roderick Agius explained.

The court explained to the man that the next legal aid lawyer on the rota would be contacted. But that lawyer was unable to attend. The court attempted to make contact with a third legal aid lawyer but he could not be reached.

Lawyer Benjamin Valenzia was eventually appointed by the court, appearing instead of legal aid head Marc Sant who was indisposed.

The court was given a CD copy of the offending video. Valenzia was given time to view the video with the accused in private.

As the arraignment finally got underway, the accused had to be given a glass of sugar water after complaining of “mental fog possibly caused by fibromyalgia or low blood sugar.”

With that out of the way, Valenzia informed the magistrate that the defence did not contest the validity of the arrest.

Inspector Roderick Agius told the court that the accused had taken a video called “To Joe Mifsud.” “I contacted the magistrate and as he said it was offensive, he asked that the police proceed.”

A warrant for Ebejer's arrest was issued by magistrate Marseanne Farrugia and the man was arrested at his home yesterday, he explained.

Ebejer was charged with reviling the magistrate because of the exercise of his duties, a crime under section 93 of the criminal code. Other charges, of computer misuse and committing a crime as a public servant were deemed absorbed into the first charge by the court.

Asked what he was pleading to the charges, Ebejer said he was pleading guilty.

The court gave the accused the opportunity to consult with his lawyer after the man’s plea, in line with recent judgments of the superior courts. After shuffling back into the courtroom, he confirmed that he had understood and repeated his guilty plea.

In his submissions, lawyer Alfred Abela said the magistrate was not seeking a pound of flesh but wanted to be allowed to work in peace. A suspended sentence, protection order, as well as a formal apology on the part of the accused and the deletion of the video would suffice for the parte civile, said the lawyer.

The accused formally apologised to Magistrate Mifsud's representatives and said that his illness sometimes led him to lose control. “And I want good things for him,” ad libbed the accused.

Lawyers Alfred Abela, Lennox Vella and Mario Mifsud, appearing as parte civile for Magistrate Mifsud, accepted the apology.

They said the magistrate was not insisting on a prison sentence, but they requested that all videos containing references to the magistrate be removed.

Finding him guilty on his own admission magistrate Demicoli handed the man a sentence of 2 years’ imprisonment suspended for 4 years and a fine of €700, payable in monthly instalments. A restraining order in favour of the magistrate and his family was also issued. Finally, the court ordered that by 5pm tonight any video of Ebejer’s, in which Magistrate Mifsud was mentioned, must be taken down.

The court explained to the man that there would be consequences if the video was not taken down.

In comments to the MaltaToday, Magistrate Mifsud’s family condemned the hindrance to the magistrate’s work, rather than the personal nature of the attack, saying that the magistrate had already forgiven the man.