U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona yesterday declared a mistrial in the “ice” case against former Corrections officer Mariano Q. Falig Jr. after the latter's counsel, Ramon K. Quichocho, disclosed that he currently represents the prosecution's key witness in a family court proceeding.
Quichocho made the disclosure shortly after the court completed jury selection on Tuesday.
Assistant U.S. attorney Ross K. Naughton urged Manglona to declare a mistrial and start over by appointing a new attorney for Falig.
Quichocho requested that he be allowed to withdraw as court-appointed counsel for Falig “in the exercise of extra caution.”
Manglona granted Quichocho's motion to withdraw and appointed attorney Bruce Berline as new counsel for Falig.
Manglona continued the hearing to yesterday, Wednesday, in order for Falig to meet with his new lawyer.
Manglona stated that she was inclined to grant the government's motion for a mistrial.
At yesterday's hearing, Berline stated that the defendant does not object to the court declaring a mistrial.
Manglona granted the government's motion for a mistrial, thanked the jurors and discharged them. She set the jury trial for May 13, 2013.
In his brief, Quichocho said that during the jury selection on Monday, the U.S. government for the first time described a task force officer involved in the investigation as the son of Rep. Janet U. Maratita (Ind-Saipan).
Quichocho said the task force officer is his client in a separate family court case in the Superior Court.
Naughton said this conflict cannot be resolved in a manner that avoids significant appellate issues, and that the safest route is to declare a mistrial and start over.
Falig was among nine persons arrested in August 2012 during a series of operations against “ice” distribution.
The indictment charged Falig and Vicente Aldan Sablan with conspiracy to distribute “ice” and distribution of “ice.”
Falig was also charged with possession of a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime.
Sablan signed a plea agreement with the U.S. government.