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Lawyer says US misstates his client’s admission to HSI agents

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ATTORNEY Robert T. Torres told the federal court that the U.S. government misstates his client’s admission to Homeland Security Investigation agents in Nov. 2019.

In his reply to the objection of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to Xinzhou Ren’s request to exclude a CNMI Customs form as evidence, Torres said the U.S. government cannot use the form as a poor and short substitute in the absence of any statement from his client on May 4, 2019.

The reason why this court should exclude the CNMI Customs form is that it is unduly prejudicial to Ren and would confuse the jury into assuming that his answer for ‘pleasure’ was the same answer as a statement at the Customs and Border Protection booth when in fact there was no statement recorded or documented or otherwise,” the lawyer added.

Ren, an overstaying tourist from People’s Republic of China, has been accused by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security of making false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation in a matter within the jurisdiction of the U.S. government.

Homeland Security Investigation said Ren was granted CNMI-only conditional parole by U.S. Customs and Border Protection until May 15, 2018, but has overstayed the authorized date.

Ren, through Torres, has requested the court to exercise its discretion and prohibit the admission of Ren’s CNMI Customs form dated May 4, 2018, which he signed and whose Question #4 he answered: “Purpose of my Trip to NMI is ‘Pleasure.’”

Torres also asked the court to issue an order excluding into evidence rough notes or field notes of the Homeland Security Investigation agents assigned to Ren’s case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Garth Backe said the court should deny the defendant’s request to exclude the CNMI Customs form.

His [Ren’s] false statement on the customs form is corroborating, highly relevant, and inextricably intertwined with his charged offenses, and to the extent it’s not inextricably intertwined, it bears directly on his motive, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, absence of mistake, and/or lack of accident on the date in question,” the federal prosecutor said.

According to Torres, however, the U.S. government “cannot sustain a materially false statement charge based merely on [a] government agent’s interpretation of what the individual meant —there must be clear evidence of what was said and a full appreciation of the context in which the statement was made. When the court looks at Ren’s interview answer on May 13, 2019, he gave a direct answer to a direct question of what his exact words were to the officer when he arrived on May 4, 2018.”

Torres said the U.S. government is “actually using and offering the CNMI Customs form either as ‘the statement’ of Ren or to bolster the secondary officer’s ‘habit testimony’ that he usually asks questions about an arriving alien’s intended purpose but without the actual statement of Ren.”

The lawyer said the U.S. government’s “edited version does not control. What controls is the actual factual evidence and the foregoing is an undisputed fact. Ren’s response is also consistent with the separate signed statement on Nov. 1, 2019. In that sworn statement Ren, in a translated signed statement, told Special Agent Nicole Sively (as written by Agent Sively) that he ‘told the officers at the airport that [he] was in Saipan as a visitor, but [he] used that as an excuse because [he] wanted to escape China.’ Based on these statements, Ren did inform CBP of his intentions to escape China, wherein his statements of coming to the CNMI as a visitor and wanting to escape the country were made contemporaneously to CBP.”

District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has continued the jury trial previously scheduled for Jan. 14, 2020 to Feb. 3, 2020 at 1:30 p.m. A pretrial conference is set for Jan. 17, 2020 at 10 a.m.

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