Ataligs’ jury trial reset for Aug. 4

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THE federal court on Wednesday granted the joint request of Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig, and Evelyn Atalig to amend their witness list and to add Gregory Vecchi, Ph.D., a Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewing expert, as an expert witness.

Ramona V. Manglona, District Court for the NMI chief judge, also granted the U.S. government’s motion to reset the trial date. The Ataligs’ jury trial will start on Aug. 4, 2020 at 10 a.m.

The Ataligs are accused of arranging CNMI government funded trips to California, Palau, Guam, and Saipan from Feb.2018 to Aug. 2018.

A superseding indictment charged them with conspiracy, wire fraud, theft from program receiving federal funds, and two counts of false statements.

Mayor Atalig is represented by attorney David Banes while Evelyn Atalig is represented by attorney Steven Pixley.

Banes has accused FBI special agent Haejun Park of witness tampering. According to the defense lawyer, Park called Vecchi “to influence him in the prosecution’s favor” and to “dissuade him from testifying for the defense.”

At the hearing on Wednesday, Judge Manglona heard testimonies from Park, Vecchi, and Office of the Public Auditor investigator Travis Hurst regarding the alleged witness tampering.

Judge Manglona then placed the defendant’s motion for sanctions under advisement.

The judge said she will issue a ruling on the matter by June 2, 2020.

In their joint motion, the Ataligs requested the court to amend their witness list for the trial and to add Vecchi who will testify “on matters relating to (among other subjects) coercive and misleading effect of the way the [U.S.] government’s investigative agents used in this matter when interviewing witnesses and the significance of certain ‘Henthorn’ materials of an agent involved in this case.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric O’Malley, who appeared for the federal government, expressed his opposition to the motion on record.

The jury trial for the Ataligs has been postponed several times now.

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

The CNMI government is accusing the Rota officials of taking government funded per diem and salary compensation to attend a Republican campaign rally on Guam on June 23, 2018.



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