A soup kitchen worker has been given a restraining order and placed on probation after he admitted in court to attacking and threatening the priest who set up the establishment and another worker, after falling out with them.
Emanuel Abela, 52, of Tarxien was arrested this morning before magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit, by police inspectors Gabriel Micallef and Darryl Borg. Abela was accused of attacking the Franciscan priest and another man, threatening to kill them, making them fear violence and harassing them. Abela was also charged with misuse of telecommunications equipment.
The prosecution told the court that the defendant worked at the Valletta soup kitchen and had a lingering disagreement with the founder, the father. Marcellino Micallef. He had been told not to return after threatening and attempting to attack the priest yesterday, but he returned anyway this morning, making further threats and knocking over a table.
Abela initially pleaded not guilty to the charges, with his attorney, Daniel Attard, asking the court for bail. The charges “are what they are,” the attorney said, but pointed out that the defendant had a fixed place of residence, for bail purposes.
“I went there for my business,” interrupted the accused. “Tell the magistrate that I go to Caritas every day,” he insisted to his lawyer.
Rising to address the court, he continued. “I was on drugs for 40 years, now I’m clean. There was a disagreement, I got angry.
“God has forgiven everyone, is there any reason he can’t forgive me?” Abela asked, adding that he called the priest who told him he had forgiven him.
“My job is to clean the toilets and the dining room only. I had a good job that earned 1400€ per month and I gave up 850€ per month to help them, [at the soup kitchen],” he said. “It was a mistake, my anger skyrocketed and I made a mistake.”
Given what appeared to be a confession, the court granted the defendant time to consult with his lawyer outside the courtroom. Upon their return, the parties asked to be allowed to approach the bench, where they briefly discussed the matter.
Caritas’ representative in court, Maria Caruana, also gave evidence at the arraignment this morning, explaining that the defendant went to Caritas every day after work. He had started out as a volunteer at the soup kitchen but was later hired as an employee by Fr. Marcellino, says Caruana. “This time, he had really immersed himself in his work. He was making visible progress. Today he told me: “I argued with the manager and knocked over a table”.
The magistrate addressed the accused, telling him that he seemed to be suppressing his rage. “The truth hurts, your honor,” Abela replied. “It had taken a long time to come. I help everyone, but I heard the cook say ‘leave the blacks in Noel’s hands so that if something bad happens, Noel will be blamed’, he said, his eyes filling with tears .
The court kindly pointed out to him that backstabbing was a reality in most workplaces and that was not the way to respond. Lawyer Daniel Attard explained that there was a long-standing disagreement between the men that has not been resolved.
After consulting with his lawyer, Abela changed his plea to a guilty plea, kissing the Caritas representative as she left the courtroom.
Given the man’s admission of guilt and the particular circumstances of the case, the court sentenced Abela to 2 years probation, also imposing a restraining order in favor of the victims for this period.