AS PROSECUTION, DEFENSE BOTH REST CASE

FBI special agent baffled why Jucutan thought he’d get shot

Prosecution makes 5’1” special agent who ‘scared’ defendant stand before jurors

The prosecution yesterday made to stand before jurors Elizabeth H. Smith, a 5’1” tall U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command special agent who, according to former U.S. Army Reserve member Jordan M. Jucutan, caused him to get intimidated and scared during an interview.

The prosecution yesterday afternoon also recalled to the witness stand Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent Joseph Strantz, who described as absurd Jucutan’s statement that he was scared that special agents may shoot him during the interview.

Strantz testified that in his 15-year career with the FBI, he never heard anything like that—a person getting shot during an interview.

After Jucutan completed his testimony yesterday, attorney Pamela Brown Blackburn, counsel for the defendant, informed the court that the defense rests its case. The prosecution rested its case last Friday.

Jucutan, who is a teacher, is on trial for four counts of wire fraud and four counts of aggravated identity theft. He is accused to have engaged in a scheme to defraud and to obtain money by falsely claiming he referred soldiers to enlist in the Army Reserve through the Army Recruiter Assistant Program (AR-RAP).

During cross-examination of Jucutan, assistant U.S. attorney Russell H. Lorfing, counsel for the U.S. government, asked permission from the court to recall Army CID special agent Smith and let her stand before the jurors.

Lorfing said this is important because the defendant testified that he made false statements because he got scared and intimidated by Smith during an interview in a small room at the FBI office on March 31, 2015.

Jucutan said he is also scared of his wife and that he is not ashamed of it. His wife, Danica, who has been watching throughout the trial, was described in court as pettite.

Lorfing stated he too is scared of his wife, drawing laughter from some jurors.

Blackburn objected to Lorfing’s request, saying “it’s theatric, unnecessary and not material.”

U.S. District Court for the NMI Senior Judge Alex R. Munson, who is presiding over the trial, granted the prosecution’s request.

The petite 5’1” tall Smith entered the courtroom and Lorfing asked her to stand before the jurors. After less than a minute, Lorfing excused the special agent.

In the U.S. government’s cross-examination on Jucutan, Lorfing told the defendant that according to his testimony he trusts Smith but at the same time scared of her.

Jucutan maintained his testimony that he’s scared and at the same time trusts Smith.

Lorfing asked if Jucutan has other reasons why he made a “false statement” to Smith in the March 31, 2015, interview.

Jucutan on Monday testified that the confession that he wrote before Smith in the March 31 interview was false.

On Friday, Smith testified that during her interview, Jucutan issued a sworn statement admitting, among other things, that he stole personal information from 18 potential soldiers.

In response to Lorfing’s question as other reasons, Jucutan said it’s that part of the unrecorded interview when Smith told him that whatever he did it’s still stealing.

Jucutan said he just started freaking out when he entered that small room with Smith.

Jucutan said he didn’t understand some of the questions during the interview, but Smith told him to just answer the questions.

Lorfing noted that in Jucutan’s separate sworn affidavit filed in court, the defendant stated that the only thing that is correct in his sworn statement given to Smith is when he stated that the number of people that he recruited as potential soldiers was 38.

Lorfing then read Jucutan’s sworn statement in which he disclosed, among other things, that his girlfriend, who is now his wife, was then pregnant.

Lorfing asked if Jucutan’s wife was pregnant in 2007. The defendant agreed that his girlfriend was then pregnant and that specific statement is true.

Lorfing asked nine other things in that sworn statement that Jucutan described in his testimony as false.

Jucutan agreed with Lorfing that the nine other things in that sworn statement are indeed true and factual.

Lorfing asked the defendant if all those people he nominated for the AR-RAP who stated that they did not give their personal information to him, they were lying.

Jucutan replied that he’s only human and can’t remember things from six to nine years ago.

Lorfing asked about some specific facts or things in Jucutan’s sworn statement that are contrary to his sworn affidavit filed in court.

Jucutan answered that he’s been truthful and that maybe there’s some typos. He said his counsel, Blackburn, helped him with that sworn affidavit.

Jucutan then stated, “Not typos, maybe misstatements.” He continued by stating, “maybe mistakes, I don’t know.”

After Jucutan completed his testimony, Lorfing recalled FBI special agent Strantz to the witness stand. Strantz already testified on Friday.

Strantz said during their interview with Jucutan at the FBI’s office on March 5, 2015, he never raised his voice and never yelled at him.

Strantz said he never threatened the defendant and never told him that he could not leave.

The special agent said he asked Jucutan if he wanted to leave, but the defendant replied that he wanted to stay.

Strantz said it was a non-custodial interview because Jucutan was not under arrest at that time.

Strantz agreed with Jucutan’s statement that he had a gun at that time during the interview.

The special agent said they are authorized by FBI policy to conceal a gun even during interviews.

Strantz described the March 5 interview with Jucutan as a “low-key interaction.”

Strantz said it was clear during the interview that Jucutan was aware that they were working on an investigation of fraud and that he was brought up in the investigation.

Strantz said Jucutan did not admit anything in that March 5 interview and did not answer a lot of questions.

The special agent said it was very typical interaction that lasted for 46 minutes.

He said Jucutan was clearly aware that he was subject of the investigation.

Strantz said he is impartial and that his sole job is to research the matter, get facts, determine what happened, and submit the reports to the prosecution.

He said he never told Jucutan that he could not get an attorney during the interview.

After Strantz, the prosecution recalled CID special agent Smith to the witness stand.

Smith, who is a polygraph examiner, testified that her interview on March 31, 2015, with Jucutan was one of the easiest interviews she had because the defendant was friendly and likeable.

Smith said there was no reason for her not to give Jucutan advice about his Miranda or constitutional rights.

Smith said she never yelled or raised her voice at Jucutan.

“It was a pleasant two-way conversation,” she said.

Smith said Jucutan provided her details about the case that she didn’t even know about.

“I have a good rapport with him,” the special agent added.

When Saipan Tribune left the courtroom yesterday late afternoon, Smith was still on the witness stand.

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Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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