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Expert witness to testify regarding investigator’s alleged bias against Rota mayor, co-defendant

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GREGORY Vecchi, Ph.D., will testify that the investigation of the case against Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig and co-defendant Evelyn Atalig exhibits confirmation of bias against the defendants on the part of the U.S. government investigators, defense attorney David Banes said.

Moreover, he added, Vecchi will testify that the U.S. government investigators (primarily Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent Haejun Park) improperly influenced and threatened witnesses; and failed to conform to accepted investigative standards and practices.

“All this is impeachment evidence that undermines the credibility of anticipated government evidence at trial, including testimony of the investigators and witnesses influenced by them, as well as reports resulting from the investigations,” Banes said.

Banes represent Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig, who, with Evelyn Atalig, is accused of arranging CNMI-government funded trips to California, Palau, Guam, and Saipan from Feb. 2018 to Aug. 2018.

They were charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, theft from program receiving federal funds, and two counts of false statements.

According to Banes, Dr. Vecchi is a former FBI agent and federal criminal investigator and has 29 years of combined military and federal law enforcement experience.

Dr. Vecchi is an assistant professor of criminal justice and a police academy instructor specializing in interview and interrogation techniques, Banes added.

“The basis of Dr. Vecchi’s opinion is his professional experience; his education, training, and study of pertinent scholarly texts; and his review of the records of investigation in this case, including government witness interview reports (FD-302 and OPA forms), and sworn witness statements compiled by the defense investigator,” Banes said.

The reasons for Dr. Vecchi’s opinions include the “frequent recurrence of anomalies in the record,” such as:

“• Many of the government witness interviews were not documented in accordance with FBI rules and standard practices.

“• The government reports of those interviews were consistently and repeatedly described by the witness as having distorted their words and meaning, and/or contradicted outright by those witnesses in later sworn statements.

“• Both the reports themselves and the witnesses’ later statements show that investigators consistently and repeatedly subjected witnesses to indirect and veiled threats of prosecution for making false statements, despite lack of independent evidence that their statements were false, contrary to FBI policy and to sound investigative practice.

“• The reports consistently and repeatedly claim that witnesses confessed to having lied, but do not report the follow-up questioning or the documentation required by FBI policy and sound investigative practice for such confessions.

“• A further reason for his opinion is the fact that these anomalies regularly pertain to the same facts (e.g., the purpose of defendants’ trips to Guam and other locations, whether there was any plan to visit the [Defense Logistics Agency office] on Guam, whether the witness had been instructed by any defendant to lie), and the effect of the anomalies is consistently to support a narrative of guilt on the part of the defendants.”

Banes said, Dr. Vecchi’s opinions
“are reinforced by efforts by Mr. Park to influence him in the prosecution’s favor, and to dissuade him from testifying for the defense.”

Today, Monday, Banes is expected to file a motion to dismiss the indictment against his client, Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig.  Attorney Steven Pixley represents Evelyn Atalig.

Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona of the District Court for the NMI has set a motion hearing for June 2, 2020 at 10 a.m. 

In CNMI Superior Court, Mayor Atalig and seven of his former and current resident directors were charged with misconduct in public office.

They are accused of taking government-funded per diem and salary compensation to attend a Republican campaign rally on Guam on June 23, 2018.

 

 

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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