AG’s office moves to dismiss contempt of court case against Joanne Castro

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THE Attorney General’s Office has moved to dismiss the contempt of court charge against Joanne Marie DLG Castro relating to a temporary restraining order sought by her brother, Rep. Luis John DLG Castro.

According to court documents, Joanne Marie DLG Castro  on Sept. 18, 2017 violated the temporary restraining order issued by the court, specifically ordering her to have no contact and to stay 200 feet away from her brother.

In his motion to dismiss on Monday, Assistant Attorney General J. Robert Glass Jr. told the Superior Court “that despite the Commonwealth being ready and attempting to try this case multiple times, typhoons, Covid-19, and the continuous entertaining of motions to reconsider filed by [the] defendant has delayed the trial for over two years.”

Glass said, “On Oct. 9, 2018, [the] defendant filed her initial motion to dismiss; Super Typhoon Yutu then struck the Marianas on Oct. 24-25. 2018. On Feb. 15, 2019 the court denied the motion to dismiss. [The] defendant thereafter filed a motion to reconsider the motion to dismiss, which the court denied and set a bench trial for Oct. 22, 2019.”

Just prior to the bench trial, Glass said the defendant attempted to appeal the denial of her motion to reconsider.

The CNMI Supreme Court, in its ruling, stated that it had no jurisdiction to hear the appeal as the case was not final because there had been no trial yet.

The bench trial was rescheduled for Dec. 18, 2019 before Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho.

Glass said the government was ready for trial along with multiple witnesses being summoned and appearing for the trial.

But Judge Camacho then delayed the trial by entertaining the defendant’s motion to reconsider the motion to reconsider, and the motion for a speedy trial that was filed the night before the trial was to take place.

Glass said the parties argued extensively for over four hours with the Commonwealth fighting to have the trial and at least delay the ruling until after trial.

“The judge ultimately vacated the trial and took the motions under advisement,” he added.

Glass said the government then moved for Judge Camacho’s recusal based on comments made prior to the hearing.

Judge Camacho attempted to participate in the plea negotiations, Glass added.

“The court’s comment directly led to the Commonwealth — after previously informing [the] defendant that it withdrew all offers as the case was set for trial — making an offer on the record in order to resolve the case prior to any motion hearing,” Glass said.

Judge Camacho granted the motion to recuse himself from the case.

Presiding Judge Roberto C. Naraja, for his part, “denied the motion to reconsider the motion to reconsider, and the motion for speedy trial” even as Covid-19 affected the ability to hold court  hearings and trials, Glass said.

The parties appeared in court on Aug. 11, 2020 and were finally able to get a new trial date for Oct. 6, 2020.

Glass said at this time, the defendant has been incarcerated for her federal case far beyond the amount of jail time that the AG’s office would be able to legally seek for her contempt of court charge —"meaning that even if the Commonwealth were to take the charge to trial, at this point any sentence would essentially result in a time-served sentence.”

The defendant will be sentenced for her federal case on Sept.  9, 2020, and federal authorities have indicated that they intend to immediately take her so she can serve her sentence at a federal facility on the mainland U.S., Glass said.

“The delays mean that the bench trial would withhold the Federal Board of Prison from transporting [Joanne] Castro,” he said, adding that this prompted the AG’s office to move to dismiss the case.

In her federal case, Joanne Castro pled guilty to possession of illegal chemical used for making methamphetamine on June 20, 2019.

She admitted her involvement in a conspiracy to possess prescription nasal decongestant that contained the ingredient pseudoephedrine, a chemical commonly used to make methamphetamine or “ice.”

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