Attorney General Joey P. San Nicolas disclosed yesterday that the Office of the Attorney General’s Investigation Unit and the Department of Public Safety are jointly investigating the mishandling of evidence in a trafficking of methamphetamine or “ice” case.
DPS Commissioner James C. Deleon Guerrero also revealed in a separate interview yesterday that he has replaced the evidence custodian and placed the control of the evidence unit directly under his office.
San Nicolas told Saipan Tribune that he could not comment further as the joint investigation is ongoing.
While he describes the incident as “unfortunate,” San Nicolas said they are doing their best to make sure that this mistake is not repeated.
“I, on behalf of law enforcement, apologized to the court and to the public for the mishandling of the evidence in that case,” he said.
A bag that contained “ice” was substituted with a fake substance, leading to the dismissal of the charges last week against suspected “ice” suppliers Le Xiang Chen and Yuhua Wang.
In dismissing the case, Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho urged San Nicolas and Deleon Guerrero to look into this incident.
Camacho said it was found out after three days of trial that no one knows what happened to the “ice” that was seized in 2010.
The judge said it appears that the package in which the “ice” was kept in a locked safe at DPS was tampered with and that the original package may have been substituted with fake evidence.
Assistant attorneys general Chemere McField and Barbara Cepeda informed the court about the error after the government rested its case.
San Nicolas said they will request the Office of the Public Auditor to review DPS’ policy in handling evidence.
Aside from DPS, San Nicolas said they are also reaching out to the Guam Police Department in their efforts to improve the DPS evidence room policy.
Deleon Guerrero said that GPD could help them in terms of cataloguing evidence and potential assistance in the area of making sure that there is inspection and inventory.
He said the ongoing investigation is for administrative and criminal aspect.
“We want to assure the community that we are doing something about the situation concerning the evidence facility,” Deleon Guerrero said.
Part of the steps, the commissioner said, is putting the management and control of evidence unit under his immediate supervision.
“I also made changes in the staffing that are currently assigned there,” he said.
Deleon Guerrero said they are also developing protocols as a sort of stop-gap measure to make sure that this type of incident does not ever occur again.
He said they are also reaching out to Office of the Public Auditor to assist them both in the investigation as well as some audit.