Prosecution will not oppose Rota mayor’s motion

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THE prosecution does not oppose Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig’s request that the federal court 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.

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

According to an online legal dictionary, the Fifth Amendment,  “gives an individual the right to refuse to answer any questions or make any statements that could be used in a criminal proceeding to help establish that the person committed a crime.”

In his response to the mayor’s pretrial motion, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric S. O’Malley  stated that the parties have sought to resolve the issue through a stipulation of facts.

“They have not, at this time, been able to come to an agreement,” O’Malley added.

Banes said Dennis Mendiola was one of the participants in the trip taken by Mayor Atalig and his other 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 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, be advised to assert Fifth Amendment privilege.”

The mayor and seven of his former and current Rota directors, including Mendiola, were charged with misconduct in public office in CNMI Superior Court.

Banes said the CNMI prosecution has moved to dismiss the charge against Mendiola with prejudice.

In addition, Banes said, “the U.S. government has previously informed Mr. Mendiola that if he chooses to testify at trial, he will be given immunity from 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.

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.

A 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 now, is now set for Aug. 4 at 10 a.m.

Attorney Steven Pixley represents Evelyn Atalig.

In CNMI Superior Court, the mayor’s co-defendants Vanessa Charfauros, Magdalena Mesngon, Dexter Apatang and Josepha Manglona have already disposed the cases against them through a plea agreement with the CNMI Attorney General’s Office.

The AG’s office recently filed a motion to dismiss the case against Dennis Mendiola who is now the commissioner of the CNMI Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services.

Besides the Rota mayor, the remaining defendants in the CNMI case are Dean Manglona and Eusebio Manglona.

They are accused of taking government-funded per diem and salary compensation to attend a Republican campaign rally on Guam on June 23, 2018.

Misconduct in public office is punishable for a period of not more than 1 year in jail, or a fine of not more than $1,000.



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