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NMI Supreme Court affirms in part and reverses in part Ambrosio Ogumoro’s conviction

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(CNMI Judiciary) — On April 30, 2020, the local Supreme Court issued its opinion in Commonwealth v. Ambrosio T. Ogumoro, affirming Ogumoro’s jury conviction of the theft by deception but reversing his conviction of misconduct in public office.

The trial court found Ogumoro, when he was deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, deceived DPS by allowing a DPS vehicle to be surveyed as scrap when it was actually of greater value. He was convicted for theft by deception and misconduct in public office. The trial court sentenced him to six years of imprisonment, all suspended, and placed him on probation with conditions to write a public apology letter, pay $2,500 in restitution, and endure a ban from government employment for 10 years.

The CNMI Supreme Court affirmed his conviction for theft by deception, finding there was sufficient evidence for each of the elements. It found that the trial court did not make a mistake in considering evidence that the vehicle was later determined to have greater value. The trial court also did not err by allowing, but ultimately striking from the record, evidence of safety inspections and their impact on a determination of the vehicle’s value. 

The high court held that allowing the Commonwealth’s witness to testify about technical information but not allowing Ogumoro’s expert witness to testify were errors, though not ones that affected the verdict. 

It also found the prosecutor’s statements in closing arguments at trial to be errors that did not affect the verdict. 

When considered together, these errors did not change the verdict or impact Ogumoro’s right to a fair trial, and so they did not require reversal of his conviction. Ogumoro’s misconduct in public office count was reversed, and the high court remanded the case for resentencing, deciding not to reach Ogumoro’s sentencing arguments.

The high court’s full opinion is available at http://cnmilaw.org/pdf/supreme/2020-MP-08.pdf

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