Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman yesterday ruled as lawful the police officers' stopping of a car that nearly hit their vehicle at a secluded beach area in Susupe that is reportedly notorious for illegal activities at night.
Wiseman denied Joseph A. Crisostimo's motion to suppress evidence, citing that the police officers had reasonable suspicion, which justified the search and seizure of evidence.
Wiseman also denied Crisostimo's motion for appointment of a confidential independent testing of drugs and drug results.
The Office of the Attorney General charged Crisostimo with possession of a controlled substance.
The defendant, through counsel, filed the motions to suppress evidence and for appointment of confidential independent testing of drugs or drug results.
Wiseman heard the motions last Aug. 22.
Crisostimo argue that he was stopped without reasonable suspicion or probable cause and that all evidence of any wrongdoing must therefore be suppressed.
The government, through assistant attorney general Nicole Driscoll, maintained that the officers did have reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop, justifying the approach and search.
According to court records, police officers Tyrone Teregeyo and T. J. Yangetmai were conducting a routine patrol of a secluded beach in Susupe on Jan. 11, 2012, at 3:17am when they encountered a car attempting to leave the area. The Tercel car sped in the officers' direction, almost hitting the officers' vehicle.
Because of the narrowness of the road and the tall vegetation surrounding it, there was no space for the car to drive around the officers' vehicle.
The officers got down from their vehicle to inquire if anything was wrong or to see if perhaps the driver had been drinking.
Teregeyo allegedly noticed a small, clear glass pipe in the back seat behind the driver's seat and asked the driver, John Namauleg, and the passenger, Crisostimo, to get off the car.
Namauleg and Crisostimo allegedly became defensive and were secured for safety purposes and for further investigation.
The officers discovered the glass pipe contained a residue that could be crystal methamphetamine or “ice.” The residue later tested presumptive positive for “ice.”
In denying Crisostimo's motions, Wiseman said that because the circumstances gave rise to suspicion, the officers were justified in approaching the vehicle. He said the plain view doctrine also allowed the officers to seize the glass pipe.
“Officer Teregeyo viewed the contraband from the lawful vantage point of the investigatory stop, therefore there was no invasion of a legitimate expectation of privacy,” Wiseman said.
Because the plain view doctrine applies in these circumstances, Wiseman said the contraband should not be suppressed.
Taking into account that the law recognizes the particularly hazardous nature of roadside encounters, Wiseman said he finds the officers were justified in performing the patdown, and therefore the paraphernalia found as a result of such should not be suppressed.
On the testing issue, Wiseman said the rules do not prevent the defense counsel from interviewing the government's expert. The defendant, Wiseman said, will have enough opportunity to cross-examine the government's expert witness.
“The provision of an additional expert for defendant, absent an adequate showing of need, would be superfluous and the denial of such does not result in a fundamentally unfair trial,” the judge added.
Last March 13, Superior Court associate judge Joseph N. Camacho revoked the probation of Crisostimo and re-imposed the remaining five-year sentence in a previous case over a burglary at Marianas Cable Vision in Susupe in 2006.
Camacho said that Crisostimo's long criminal history and recent charges speak of a deep lack of respect for the law and the people of the CNMI.