Rota mayor wants to know if Dennis Mendiola can invoke his 5th Amendment rights if called to testify

  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

ROTA Mayor Efraim Atalig has asked the federal court to determine if Dennis Mendiola can invoke and has a valid basis for asserting his Fifth Amendment privilege if he is called to testify at trial.

Atalig, through attorney David Banes, recently filed a motion for pretrial determination of applicability of Fifth Amendment privilege.

According to an online legal dictionary, to “plead the Fifth,” which is the right against self-incrimination, means the right not to answer police questions both while custody and in court.

Banes said Dennis Mendiola was one of the participants in the trip taken by Mayor Atalig and Rota resident directors to Guam in June 2018.

“Mr. Mendiola has extremely relevant information regarding efforts made to obtain access to DRMO for the whole group,” Banes added.

DRMO refers to a U.S. Department of Defense office formerly known as the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office, but is now called Defense Logistics Agency or DLA Disposition Services. One function of this office is to sell surplus and used federal equipment. DLA Disposition Services has an office at Naval Base Guam.

Banes said the Rota mayor intends to call Mendiola to testify at trial, but “if subpoenaed to testify in the case, Mr. Mendiola may seek advice of counsel and be advised to assert Fifth Amendment privilege.”

Banes said it is “questionable that Mr. Mendiola would have a valid basis for asserting that privilege. Mr. Mendiola is not charged in this case. He was previously charged in a criminal case (Case No 18-0088-CR) in the CNMI Superior Court for conduct related to the DRMO Trip. However, the  CNMI prosecution has moved to dismiss the charge against Mr. Mendiola with prejudice (upon information and belief,  that motion has been granted). In addition, the U.S. government previously informed Mr. Mendiola that if he chooses to testify at trial in this case, he will be given immunity from his testimony. Therefore, the only conceivable fear of prosecution by the U.S. government that Mr. Mendiola may have would be fear of prosecution for perjury, which is, as a matter of law, not a valid basis for asserting the Fifth Amendment privilege….”

Banes asked the court to make a determination as to whether Mendiola may assert the Fifth Amendment privilege if called to testify at trial.

“Making this determination in advance of trial will help streamline that trial and potentially save time and expenses associated with making that determination in the middle of the trial,” the lawyer said.

In federal court, Mayor Atalig, and co-defendant Evelyn Atalig are accused of arranging CNMI government funded trips to California, Palau, Guam, and Saipan from Feb. 2018 to Aug. 2018.

The superseding indictment charged the Ataligs with conspiracy, wire fraud, theft from program receiving federal funds, and two counts of false statements.

Their jury trial, which has been postponed several times, is now set for Aug. 4 at 10 a.m.

Attorney Steven Pixley represents Evelyn Atalig while Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric O’Malley is the prosecutor.

In CNMI Superior Court, Mayor Atalig and seven of his former and current resident directors were charged with misconduct in public office.

Vanessa Charfauros, Magdalena Mesngon, Dexter Apatang and Josepha Manglona have already disposed the cases against them through a plea agreement with the CNMI Office of the Attorney General.

The AG’s office recently filed a motion to dismiss the case against Dennis Mendiola, the current CNMI fire commissioner.

Including the Rota mayor, the remaining defendants in the local case are Dean Manglona and Eusebio Manglona.

They have been charged with misconduct in public office for taking government-funded per diem and salary compensation to attend a Republican campaign rally on Guam in June  2018.




previous arrow
next arrow

Read more articles

Visit our Facebook Page

previous arrow
next arrow