Two men have been found not guilty In the case of three suspected Irish Republican Army (IRA) members who had allegedly purchased explosives, a firearm, and ammunition on the Alphabay dark web marketplace. The Federal Bureau of Investigation delivered the case to the Gardaí after an Alphabay user had purchased the weapons from an undercover FBI agent. Gardaí performed a controlled delivery of fake explosives, watched the men for several hours, and then arrested them later that morning.
At the Special Criminal Court trial, judges convicted only Jonathan Hawthorn, a 45-year-old from Dublin. They convicted him of membership of an unlawful organization (the IRA). The prosecution had accused all three men of purchasing Semtex, a grenade, a pistol, and 100 rounds of ammunition on the darknet for activities connected to the IRA. Chief Superintendent Tom Maguire told the court that he knew the above to be true but failed to provide evidence to the court that defended his accusations.
The prosecution asked the judges to “draw inferences” based on the men’s refusal to answer questions posed by law enforcement or by court officials. Justice Kennedy, when passing the verdict, said that one of the former suspects, James Geraghty, 60, had answered all questions truthfully and none of the answers had provided information that supported the chief superintendent’s accusations. The second former suspect, Donal O’Ceallaigh, 33, had refused to answer several of the questions posed by the authorities, the judge noted. However, the answers the man had provided also failed to support the belief of the chief superintendent.
Only Hawthorn’s answers and refusal to answer questions failed to stand up to scrutiny. Evidence provided by the prosecution supported the chief superintendents claim. His answers, according to the prosecution, rarely reflected the actual truth and the questions he refused to answer would not have contributed to an outcome favorable to Hawthorn. Furthermore, law enforcement had photographic evidence that supported some of their claims. The suspect who had ordered the package used the name “Gerathy” and had the package addressed to Geraghty’s address. However, the undercover law enforcement officers who delivered the package noted that Hawthorn had opened Geraghty’s door and signed for the package (using Geraghty’s name). Hawthorn signed for and accepted the package even though all three men had been staying at the house at the time of the controlled delivery.
A member of the National Surveillance Unit had also photographed Hawthorn signing for the package. Gardaí later arrested all three men outside of St. James’s Hospital. Hawthorn had a bag that contained the fake grenade and the semtex that he had accepted only hours before the arrest.
O’Ceallaigh and Geraghty walked free at the end of the trial. Hawthorn, though, will reappear in October for sentencing. The court found him guilty of IRA membership.