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CNMI Superior Court Issues Penal Summons For Fitial

Former governor ordered to appear before court

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By Ferdie de la Torre

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, March 12, 2013) – The Superior Court of the Northern Mariana Islands has issued a penal summons against former governor Benigno R. Fitial in connection with an alleged conspiracy to shield former attorney general Edward T. Buckingham from being served a penal summons in August last year.

Sources disclosed yesterday that the Office of the Public Auditor (OPA) filed last week in Superior Court an affidavit in support of criminal allegations against Fitial.

Sources said the affidavit was filed by OPA chief investigator Juan M. Santos and that Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman issued the penal summons on Thursday, March 7.

In the summons, sources said, Wiseman ordered Fitial to appear in court on the “first Monday” at 9am to answer the charges.

Fitial was last reported to be in San Diego, California.

When asked about the meaning of “first Monday” in penal summons, veteran lawyer Michael Dotts said it means the first Monday of the month or the first Monday after a person receives the summons.

Dotts said it should be clear in the penal summons.

“After you get back [on the island], you’ve got to show up in court and say ‘I’m here’ and the court will schedule a conference for your case and get it on track,” Dotts said.

The lawyer said a penal summons is a “kinder process” and is usually for less serious types of offenses.

In related development, a police officer has alleged that Fitial called him on his cell phone at the time when then attorney general Buckingham was leaving Saipan in August last year and asked about who gave instructions to assist OPA in serving the penal summons to Buckingham.

According to OPA, another police officer disclosed that Department of Public Safety deputy commissioner Ambrosio Ogumoro also issued a directive to him that all DPS personnel should cease any efforts to aid in the service of the summons upon Buckingham.

These allegations are contained in the affidavit OPA chief investigator Santos filed in Superior Court to support the arrest warrants for Police Capt. Jermaine W. Nekaifes, Commonwealth Ports Authority police chief Jordan Kosam, and CPA’s Capt. Juan Rebuenog.

Nekaifes, Kosam, and Rebuenog were arrested last Wednesday for their alleged participation in a coordinated effort by multiple persons to shield Buckingham from being served the summons. The three were released upon posting $500 cash bails.

In his affidavit, Santos said that DPS detective Elias Q. Saralu stated in an interview that on the evening hours of Aug. 3, 2012, he received a call from Ogumoro, who was allegedly yelling over the phone and asking Saralu who gave the order to assist OPA in serving the summons on Buckingham.

Saralu also allegedly received a phone call from Fitial, who asked him about who gave the instructions to assist OPA.

Santos said that in a separate interview, police officer Juan Mendiola stated that Ogumoro issued a directive to him that all DPS personnel should cease any efforts to aid in the service of the summons upon Buckingham.

An FBI special agent eventually managed to serve Buckingham with the penal summons shortly before the Delta Air Lines flight to Japan took off in the early morning hours of Aug. 4, 2012.

Sources disclosed that separate arrest warrants were issued against Ogumoro and Buckingham.

Ogumoro was last reported to be in Canada for an official trip. Buckingham, who has been declared a fugitive from justice, is believed to be in the U.S. mainland.

Saipan Tribune http://www.saipantribune.com
Copyright © 2013 Saipan Tribune. All Rights Reserved

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