AG’s office asks high court to review Judge Camacho’s ruling

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THE Office of the Attorney General’s Criminal Division has asked the CNMI Supreme Court to review the recent order of Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho  in a sexual abuse of a minor case.

Assistant Attorney General J. Robert Glass Jr. petitioned the high court for a writ of mandamus.

Glass wants the high court to direct Judge Camacho to rescind his previous order granting the request of defendant Rudolph Rudolph to have all tangible materials used by law enforcement to establish probable cause.

Judge Camacho, in his order issued on Sept. 28, found that Rudolph has the right to cross-examine adverse witnesses at a preliminary examination hearing “to weed out groundless claims.”

The judge said the defendant is “entitled to the tangible materials in possession of the Commonwealth that relate to the government’s determination of probable cause so that the defendant can fully and properly cross-examine the government’s witness.”

Rudolph, a Federated States of Micronesia national, was charged on Aug. 5, 2020 with three counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree and four counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree.

According to the AG’s office, in a preliminary hearing, the court lacks jurisdiction to compel discovery.

In his petition for a writ of mandamus, Glass noted that four of the five Superior Court judges do not currently require the government to produce discovery prior to or at a preliminary hearing.

He said this  has created inconsistencies in preliminary hearings leading to long delays in cases assigned to the one judge who does require discovery for a preliminary hearing, Glass added, referring to Judge Camacho.

“The Commonwealth has no other avenue or relief and will suffer damage that cannot be remedied on appeal,” Glass said.

He said the government attempts to seek relief from the lower court through motions to reconsider have been futile.

Glass said the government suffers prejudice and injury as a result of the lower court’s actions that erroneously expand its authority.

He said the lower court’s order is “an oft-repeated error that manifests a persistent disregard of applicable rules.”

Judge Camacho’s order in the case “raises new and important problems, and issues of law of first impression,” such as “whether a preliminary hearing court has the jurisdiction to consider anything other than probable cause, and whether a defendant is permitted any kind of discovery at a preliminary hearing,” Glass said.

He added that the lower court “clearly erred” when it ordered full discovery at a preliminary hearing.

“The lower court exceeded its jurisdiction by holding a preliminary hearing outside of the 10 days specified by NMI R. Crim. P. 5.1,” Glass said.

In addition, Judge Camacho “clearly erred when he held that a defendant is entitled to tangible discovery materials by creating new rules outside of the legislative process, by expanding a statute beyond its plain language, by misconstruing the current state of federal preliminary hearings, and by ignoring clear precedents from this court,” Glass said.

Despite the Office of the AG’s filing of a petition for a writ of mandamus, Judge Camacho conducted Rudolph’s preliminary hearing on Tuesday as scheduled in the Horiguchi Building courtroom.

Rudolph appeared in custody of the Department of Corrections and was represented by attorney Anthony Aguon.

Assistant Attorney General Samantha Vickery, who appeared for the government, moved orally for a motion for stay in the proceedings pending the high court’s ruling on the petition for a writ of mandamus.

But Aguon opposed the motion for stay and asked Judge Camacho to direct the government to produce all tangible materials as ordered by the court.

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