The CNMI government asked the U.S. District Court yesterday to dismiss the claims of the alleged victim of police brutality, Ramon A. Ayuyu, as accused police officer Hilary Tagabuel denied harming him to confess to a theft incident nearly three years ago.
District Judge Alex R. Munson denied the motion, but granted its request to drop the Department of Public Safety and four John Doe’s who are unnamed police officers as defendants to the $1 million damage suit.
He also decided to accept the testimony of first witness of the plaintiff, Public Defender Masood Karimipour, despite the defense contention that it was irrelevant to the case since he had no personal account of the allegations.
Assistant Attorney General William Betz, who is defending the government and Mr. Tagabuel in the civil case, attacked the testimonies presented by Mr. Ayuyu, his mother Virginia Imperial and younger sister Luisa, which he said were inconsistent and rehearsed.
In brushing aside Mr. Karimipour, he described him as someone who is “wearing his white hat, waiving a flag of freedom” when he defended Mr. Ayuyu in the theft case in the local court, while goading him to sue the government.
“There’s no indication that anything has been done wrong [on Mr. Ayuyu],” Mr. Betz said in asking the court to dismiss the case, adding the plaintiff kept on changing his story to suit what he perceives as right. “He’s confused. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
Although he acknowledged the case against the CNMI government is “not strong,” Judge Munson said there is sufficient evidence from the plaintiff for the jury to make its decision.
“The testimonies are inconsistent, but there are facts before the jury that they can weigh,” he pointed out in rejecting the dismissal of the case.
The plaintiff’s lawyer Steve Pixley wrapped up its case against the government during yesterday’s trial with the testimonies from the family that corroborated Mr. Ayuyu’s statements — which the defense said were conflicting at times.
In his testimony, Mr. Tagabuel said he did not assault the plaintiff when he questioned him on Nov. 26, 1997 regarding the theft incident that took place two weeks earlier at Winchell’s in Susupe.
He maintained Mr. Ayuyu, whom he had known for eight years of his service in DPS as “a kid around the block” in Koblerville, was brought to the police station in Susupe after another officer Jessie Seman dropped him there on his instruction.
According to Mr. Tagabuel, he read him his constitutional rights in Chamorro as he knew Mr. Ayuyu is a “slow learner” and doesn’t understand English well.
He said he even gave him betel nut to chew to make him relaxed as he took his statement. The proceeding lasted only for 30 minutes, after which officer Seman brought him back to his house, he added.
While under questioning in his office, he said Mr. Ayuyu admitted taking $50 from a Chinese lady inside the restaurant, adding he signed the confession letter.
“I asked him to sign the confession but I didn’t coerce him,” said Mr. Tagabuel.