Jermaine Joseph Wabol Nekaifes yesterday entered a not guilty plea to the charges for his role in the alleged conspiracy to shield former attorney general Edward T. Buckingham from being served a penal summons.
At the arraignment, Nekaifes, through attorney Timothy Bellas, waived reading of the information and advisement of his constitutional rights.
Nekaifes pleaded not guilty to the information charging him with conspiracy to commit theft of services, conspiracy to commit obstructing justice: interference with service of process, obstructing justice: interference with service or process, conspiracy to commit obstructing justice: interference with a law enforcement officer or witness, obstructing justice: interference with a law enforcement officer or witness, and six counts of misconduct in public office.
Superior Court Presiding Judge Robert C. Naraja set a status conference for April 9.
Office of the Public Auditor special prosecutor George Hasselback appeared at the hearing for the CNMI government.
Nekaifes, 39, used to serve as personal driver and bodyguard of former governor Benigno R. Fitial.
OPA chief investigator Juan M. Santos stated in his affidavit filed in court that Nekaifes was aware of the existence of the summons to be issued to Buckingham as evidenced by statement or testimony of Commonwealth Ports Authority police chief Jordon Kosam at Fitial's impeachment proceedings.
Santos said Kosam received a call via cellphone from Nekaifes requesting his assistance to provide an escort to Buckingham, due, in part, to the fact that persons may attempt to serve Buckingham with the summons.
Furthermore, Santos said, Nekaifes coordinated the escort and security services to be provided for Buckingham and/or his wife.
Santos said Nekaifes and Department of Public Safety deputy commissioner Ambrosio Ogumoro made arrangements with Kosam and Fitial to assist Buckingham to evade and avoid the service of the summons.
Aside from Nekaifes, for the alleged conspiracy OPA had also filed criminal charges against Fitial, Ogumoro, Kosam, and CPA's Capt. Juan Rebuenog. Except Fitial, all defendants already appeared in Superior Court. The former governor, who is off-island, has been issued with penal summons.