U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has recused herself from presiding in the case against a man accused of luring pregnant Chinese women to come to Saipan to give birth so their babies will acquire U.S. citizenship.
In an order issued last week, Manglona said that defendant Kuanyi Chen has received discovery information from the U.S. government that, although not previously known to her, could create an appearance that questions her impartiality.
In particular, the judge said, there are receipts showing proof of rental payments by witnesses against Chen to an entity to which she has close familial and financial ties. She said the individuals involved in the transactions may therefore be material witnesses in the case.
Manglona said that Chen contends that this relationship calls into question her impartiality as the presiding judge.
The U.S. government disputed Chen's conclusions and disagreed that a recusal is necessary.
Manglona said, however, that she will recuse herself to maintain the integrity of the proceedings and to allow defense counsel to fully cross-examine the government's witness and challenge the government's evidence.
In the event a complete investigation reveals that self-recusal is not warranted, either party may move for reconsideration of her order, Manglona added.
Chen has been indicted with five counts of encouraging illegal entry of aliens for financial gain, five counts of harboring aliens for financial gain, and five counts of illegal transportation of aliens for financial gain.