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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Inos inks new extradition letter for Buckingham
Cost to bring back former AG could be some $15,000

Gov. Eloy S. Inos signed Friday afternoon a letter requesting Colorado Gov. John W. Hickenlooper to have former attorney general Edward Buckingham “arrested, secured and delivered” into the U.S. Marshals Service’s custody, for extradition to the CNMI.

Inos believes Buckingham’s extradition would be “pretty quick.”

The governor also said the cost of bringing back Buckingham to face the charges that the Office of the Public Auditor filed against him could amount to $15,000.

“That [cost] is still a concern but we’ve essentially agreed that this has to be funded jointly between OPA and the administration. We have to fund it. It’s part of the cost of justice, to go through this,” Inos told Saipan Tribune at the Taste of the Marianas International Food Festival on Saturday night.

Should the process succeed, the U.S. Marshals Service will have to bring Buckingham over to the CNMI, and the CNMI will reimburse the federal agency for the costs it incurred in doing so, he added.

Inos is so far believed to be the only CNMI governor to write letters requesting extradition of a former attorney general.

“I don’t know if that’s good or bad but it’s just one of those things. They come with the territory. We got to do what we got to do. Nothing personal, it’s just the job,” the governor added.

Inos signed the extradition letter a few hours after Buckingham appeared before Colorado County Court Judge K.J. Moore, who advised him of his rights and why he was being held.

Buckingham posted a $25,000 bond. His next hearing is set for June 10.

‘No one is above the law’

Sen. Pete Reyes (IR-Saipan) said yesterday that if what Buckingham did is “done by anyone in the community that is politically unconnected, an orange uniform would have already been issued.”

“So am I glad he is being extradited? You bet I am. I can’t wait to finally see justice is served,” Reyes said.

Reyes said it has taken this long to see that Buckingham will “finally be brought back to face charges filed against him.”

“A message should go out that he is not above the law,” the senator added.

Back in December, private citizens and lawmakers, including Reyes, said they will donate funds to help cover the cost of extraditing Buckingham But later on, the then Fitial administration said there’s no need to raise funds from private citizens and lawmakers.

‘Fleeing from justice’

Inos, in his one-page letter to his Colorado counterpart, said that Buckingham “stands charged with use of public supplies, services, time and personnel for campaign activities, use of name of a government department or agency to campaign and/or express support for a candidate running for public office, failure to produce documents or information, obstructing justice: interference with service of process, theft of services, conspiracy to commit theft of services, and misconduct in public office.”

Inos said that Buckingham “fled from justice of the Commonwealth, and has taken refuge and is now to be found in the State of Colorado.”

“…I do hereby respectfully demand that the above-named fugitive from justice be arrested and secured and delivered into the custody of the United States Marshals Service as agent(s) hereby authorized to receive, convey and transport said fugitive to the Commonwealth, here to be dealt with according to law,” Inos said in his May 17 letter to Hickenlooper.

This is the second Buckingham extradition request letter that Inos signed since becoming governor.

The first one was signed on Feb. 27, addressed to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. At the time, Buckingham was believed to be in Iowa.

But Inos clarified on Saturday that the first extradition request letter was not served because Buckingham was not in Iowa at the time.

“It wasn’t served because he wasn’t there [Iowa]. Apparently, he’s in Colorado,” Inos said.

The governor added that immediately after he signed the second extradition request letter on Friday, it was handed to OPA legal counsel George Hasselback.

Buckingham is facing criminal charges in connection with his alleged hosting of a political campaign in 2010 for former governor Benigno R. Fitial’s then delegate candidate; obstruction of justice in August 2012 when he allegedly used police and ports police officers to shield him from being served a penal summons; approval of a sole-source ARRA management contract; and approval of a no-bid, $190.8-million diesel power purchase agreement, among other things.

‘Wishing Fitial well’

Meanwhile, Inos said he also learned that former governor Benigno R. Fitial just recently had surgery in the Philippines.

“I hope that he recovers well so that hopefully he can come home and attend to his personal issues,” Inos told Saipan Tribune.

Multiple sources confirmed last week that Fitial is recuperating from gall bladder surgery at St. Luke’s Medical Center-Global City.

Fitial is also facing charges filed by OPA for his role in an alleged conspiracy to shield Buckingham from being served a penal summons in August 2012.

OPA’s Hasselback is asking the court to quash a penal summons on Fitial and re-issue a previously signed arrest warrant for the former governor’s arrest so that the prosecution of the case may proceed.

On Saturday, Inos said this decision “is strictly out of the OPA.”

Fitial is not only the first CNMI governor to resign but is also the first one to be impeached by the House of Representatives. He stepped down on Feb. 20, 2013, just days before the start of his impeachment trial at the Senate. The House of Representatives impeached him on 18 charges of corruption, commission of felony, and neglect of duty.

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