Jury empaneled for Rota mayor’s trial

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THE federal court on Thursday empaneled 12 jurors and four alternatives for the trial of Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig and his co-defendant, Evelyn Atalig.

The trial will resume today, Friday at 8 a.m.

On Wednesday, the mayor’s lawyer, David Banes, opposed the motions of the U.S. government to quash two subpoenas addressed to the CNMI Office of the Attorney General and the Division of Revenue and Taxation.

The subpoenas seek the entire personnel records of investigators in  the Rota mayor’s case, including, without limitation “job applications and related documents, performance evaluation, complaints and disciplinary records.”

Banes said the motions to quash should be denied by the court.

He said neither the Office of the Attorney General nor the Division of Revenue and Taxation, to whom the subpoenas at issue here are directed, has moved to quash the subpoena or served a written objection on Mayor Atalig.

“They are not complaining that complying with the subpoenas would be time consuming or otherwise oppressive,” Banes said.

“The U.S. government simply has no standing to move to quash the subpoena, and certainly should not be allowed to use the motion to force Mayor Atalig to reveal his trial strategy,” Banes added.

He said the subpoenas were intended to be returnable at 4:30 p.m. on Aug.11, 2020, the day when the trial began, but due to a typographical error, “a.m.” was stated in the subpoenas instead of “p.m.”

Banes said, “No harassment of any government witness would result from enforcement of the subpoena either. Nor, finally, is there any concern in this case for any ‘overemphasis on the witnesses’ credibility.’”

According to Banes, based on reports produced by the prosecution during discovery, it is expected that U.S. government witnesses who are the subjects of the documents requested in the subpoenas will testify as to certain statements made by either Mr. Atalig, or Ms. Atalig, or certain other witnesses incriminating Mr. Atalig and Ms. Atalig.

“Indeed, one of the charges in the superseding indictment is about false statements made to law enforcement agents. The credibility of the government witnesses, therefore, is a central issue at trial. It is difficult to see how credibility could be ‘overemphasized’ by seeking the materials requested in the subpoenas, and tellingly, the government does not even try to explain it in its motion,” Banes added.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric O’Malley and Garth Backe are the federal prosecutors.

According to O’Malley, the defendant’s subpoena is an improperly cast net for impeachment material.

“It seeks private information protected by Commonwealth law, the relevant portions of which have been or will be disclosed to the government, and then exchanged during the ordinary course of discovery,” O’Malley said.

The subpoena is unreasonable and oppressive and must be quashed under Fed. R. Crim. P. 17(c)(2), he added.

Backe filed a second motion to quash  the subpoena addressed to the CNMI Department of Finance- Division of Revenue and Taxation for the tax record of an investigator.

“Compliance with the subpoena would be unreasonable and oppressive because, in addition to being an unwarranted invasion of privacy, disclosure of the investigator’s tax returns and return information would constitute a direct violation of CNMI law,”  Backe said.

He added that the prosecution has an interest in preventing the defendants from harassing its witness, as well as ensuring that the law is followed.

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

They are accused of arranging CNMI government-funded trips to California, Palau, Guam, and Saipan from Feb. 2018 to Aug. 2018.

Evelyn Atalig is represented by Steven Pixley.




November 2020 pssnewsletter

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