A man who blackmailed a former Fianna Fail councillor with pictures of him allegedly taking cocaine dramatically changed his plea to guilty mid-trial yesterday.
Wesley Higgins (33) attempted to extort ?5,000 from Liam Kelly by threatening to give the pictures to a newspaper.
Higgins of Dundaniel Road, Kilmore, Coolock, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to demanding money with menaces between August 6 and 12, 2006.
But midway through the trial, after lengthy legal argument, Higgins changed his plea to guilty before the jury. He was remanded on continuing bail after the prosecution said there was no objection to him remaining free until sentencing.
Mr Kelly said he had always maintained his innocence, and felt "vindicated" by the guilty plea.
But he said he would not make a further statement until after the sentencing "out of respect for the court".
Judge Desmond Hogan set a sentencing date for January 27, before thanking the jury and dismissing them. Higgins faces a maximum sentence of 14 years.
The five-day trial was dominated by the lengthy and often heated cross-examination of the former Dublin city councillor. Mr Kelly repeatedly denied taking cocaine but said he suffered from blackouts due to his alcoholism and could remember little of the night in question.
Mr Kelly said he represented Finglas-Glasnevin on Dublin City Council from 2004 to when he lost his seat in 2009. He told Tony McGillicuddy, prosecuting, that he knew Higgins "superficially" after meeting him a few times.
In early August 2006, Higgins called him and invited him to a party.
He accepted the invitation because he was an alcoholic and "would have gone anywhere for more drink". He went to the party with Higgins and an unnamed female and left in the early hours of the morning.
Mr Kelly said Higgins 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 Higgins was acting as a "middleman" and the woman wanted ?5,000 for the photos. Higgins added that he needed to be "looked after" as well.
A later message stated that Higgins was having difficulty stopping the woman going to the newspapers with the photographs. A final message added that the pictures showed the councillor snorting cocaine.
On August 8, Mr Kelly 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.
Mr Kelly identified himself in a photograph "inhaling a white powdery substance". He said it wasn't cocaine and that he wanted more time to explain. He later went to gardai and made a complaint alleging blackmail.