‘I was flabbergasted and floored’, says Serpent

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From the moment news broke weeks ago that someone named Janice Samuel had pleaded guilty to stealing thousands of dollars from her then employer in 2016 – after vigorously denying it throughout that time – Algernon “Serpent” Watts has maintained that he was taken by surprise as just about everyone else working at NEWSCO Limited, which groups together OBSERVER Radio, The Daily OBSERVER newspaper and Hitz FM.
Newsroom personnel on duty remember the moment a story from one of our reporters detailed the accusations of embezzlement against one Janice Samuel, who had falsified receipts in order to siphon away rent payments she had been entrusted with collecting on behalf of her employer who owned multiple rental properties or apartments.
Someone in the newsroom asked: “Janice Samuel? As if I know someone by that name. Is this the same Janice Samuel who’s been on Snake Pit with Serpent and Knight?”
The stunning confirmation was not long in coming. It was indeed our Janice – the energetic, take-no-prisoners, volunteer co-host of the popular Snake Pit programme – produced and hosted for nearly two decades by the man whose radio persona had become as much of a brand and OBSERVER Radio calling card, as the hard-and-heavy hitting program he had developed into flagship status with a near cult-like following.
The reporter who penned the story had alluded to Samuel being a media personality, but appeared just as surprised when told subsequently that the individual had for several months been a
Snake Pit regular.
For all that, OBSERVER did not shrink from reporting the raw and bare facts, even as the Samuel saga grew steadily worse with additional revelations (alleged and actual) of similar misdeeds, and a past that included prior convictions and incarceration for the same genre of criminality.
In a candid interview on Thursday afternoon (August 8th) with OBSERVER’s news editor, Shelton Daniel, Serpent – NEWSCO’s managing director – said while “there may have been a rumble here and there,” it was never anything “substantial or out of the norm” from people just engaging in gossip and innuendo.
When it emerged that there was indeed raging fire behind the dubious smoke, Watts said he confronted Samuel to inquire why she had never apprised him or Dane Knight that she was embroiled in such a serious legal matter for three years.
Her answers, he said, were always evasive and dismissive – that it was no big deal; that the accusations were nonsensical and could not hold up – a flippancy that continued even after she pleaded guilty to stealing thousands of dollars from the owner of Connie’s Comfort Suites.
Asked whether he had any concerns that the unmasking of Samuel via judicial conviction and sentencing would impact the credibility of Snake Pit and possibly bring the program into disrepute, Serpent replied: “I would say no. Of course it’s a sore eye in some instances, and there are people who are going to say this and say that, or people who are looking for any excuse to try and pull you down. They will have their say. It will happen anyway, but Snake Pit is Serpent – full stop. The others are contributors, and welcome contributors; they play a role and I appreciate having them there, but let’s not get it twisted – Snake Pit is Serpent.”
But shouldn’t he be concerned – having been at the forefront of delving into the alleged misdeeds of government and earning such a reputation as an investigative radio hound – that questions will be asked about how Janice Samuel’s history, right up to the present, had managed to stay hidden from him?
“There is a phrase ‘nearer to church, further from God’. Sometimes you have to take a step back to see what’s close, and maybe that’s the situation; this was right under our nose. Again, we had no idea.
There’s a lot of people who are coming out now to reveal this had happened, that had happened, ‘I can’t believe you didn’t know’ or ‘I wanted to tell you this all along but I figured you might have already known’. In the past 2-3 weeks I’ve had scores of people coming to me with information and telling me they wanted to say this all along, but they figured I would have already known. So only now I am hearing all these things. Whether all of them are true, I don’t know. Some are, but I can’t say that all are.”
Serpent admitted to being “flabbergasted and floored” by Samuel’s boldness and audacity in making herself so conspicuous, despite carrying such heavy baggage or the proverbial load of skeletons in her closet.
The convict, who is facing a fresh and even more serious round of charges, was very recently remanded to prison after failing to meet bail requirements. She had been relentless on the radio in calling for higher standards of governmental accountability and transparency in order to deter and counter fraud, graft and embezzlement in the management of public funds and resources.
“This has really given me pause. I’m flabbergasted. I’m very rarely ever at a loss for words; I’m still at a loss for words. I has left me reeling…I don’t think that even Janice can be upset that we have distanced the Snake Pit programme. It took lots of years of hard work. The people trust the information coming from us because they trust us. Credibility is a serious thing and it means a lot to the Snake Pit…Janice cannot be a part of the Snake Pit programme anymore.”
Concerning the mileage and hay that some rival media houses have been seeking to extract from the Janice Samuel matter, Serpent had some words of admonition for them.
“I can’t fault the other media houses for smelling blood in the water and attacking it. I can’t blame them, I can’t argue with them. The problem I have is the hypocrisy of those media houses. Pointe FM, in particular, they have made this their program for weeks now; when they had a co-host, a show host down there, who pleaded guilty for way more than Janice had pleaded guilty for and not a drum was heard. ABS, I’m told, have been showing Janice’s picture, blasting Janice morning, noon and night; when, if ABS checks the court register, they will realize that they have hierarchy inside ABS who are caught up in the same shenanigans as well. They’d never report it. OBSERVER, on the other hand, was the first to come out with the Janice story.”

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