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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Plea deal for ex-cop facing 2 criminal cases rejected

Finding it too lenient, Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho rejected yesterday a proposed global plea agreement between the CNMI government and former police sergeant Vicente Olopai Tagabuel, who is facing two criminal charges.

Camacho said the proposed deal doesn’t meet the court’s standards and the CNMI community.

The agreement recommended imprisonment of two years—a fraction of the possible maximum sentence for the crimes at issue, Camacho said.

The judge noted that at the time of the commission of at least one of the offenses, Tagabuel was a police sergeant with the Department of Public Safety, and that both offenses involved the use of a dangerous weapon.

According to court records, the Office of the Attorney General and Tagabuel filed a global plea agreement on Jan. 29, 2013. That same day, Tagabuel pleaded guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon in the 2012 case and disturbing the peace in a 2003 case.

Presiding Judge Robert C. Naraja then entered judgment against Tagabuel but put off his sentencing and whether to accept or reject the plea deal until after the completion of a presentencing investigation report.

The sentencing was originally scheduled for April 16, 2013, but that hearing was vacated and rescheduled several times.

On Jan. 14, 2014, Naraja reassigned the matter to Camacho.

In his order yesterday, Camacho said that under the Commonwealth Rules of Criminal Procedure that governs plea agreement, the court “may accept or reject the agreement, or may defer its decision as to the acceptance or rejection until there has been opportunity to consider the presentence report.”

Camacho said in this case, the decision concerning the acceptance of the plea agreement was deferred.

Under the global plea deal, the OAG recommends two years in prison without the possibility of parole.

Defense attorney Michael Dotts, counsel for Tagabuel, recommends a sentence of two years of house arrest.

In a previous interview, Dotts stated that in the latest case, Tagabuel pounded the top of his car with a knife because he wanted his son to return the vehicle.

“It’s a dispute between a father and son,” the lawyer pointed out.

Dotts said the 2003 case was when Tagabuel drove his car and smashed into a picnic table and other items at a house.

“He lost his job and lost his pension,” said Dotts, adding that Tagabuel worked for 23 years in different capacities at the Department of Public Safety and at the Department of Corrections.

Court records show that the Office of the Attorney General in the 2003 case charged Tagabuel with assault with a dangerous weapon, assault, three counts of disturbing the peace, and two counts of criminal mischief for allegedly threatening Andrew Rapoulug with a machete on Dec. 29, 2002.

In a 2011 criminal case, the OAG charged the defendant with utility theft in the amount of $196.70. He pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay a $50 fine, $196.70 in restitution and a reconnection fee of $93.37 to the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. There was no jail term.

In May 2012, Superior Court Associate Judge David Wiseman issued two bench warrants against Tagabuel—one in 2003 for not appearing at a review hearing in a small claim matter and one in 2004 for not appearing at a status conference in the 2003 criminal case.

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