Former Finance Secretary Antonio R. Cabrera lost his fight to reverse his conviction on corruption charges after U.S. District Judge Alex R. Munson yesterday upheld the guilty verdict returned by a jury.
His motion seeking a judgment of acquittal on two charges was rejected following a 30-minute hearing in the federal court during which defense lawyer Joseph A. Arriola vainly argued the case on his behalf.
Judge Munson said the jury had weighed the evidence presented at the trial last October and came up with a verdict that satisfied elements of the crime.
Mr. Cabrera, 40, was found guilty after a week-long trial on three counts of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, but acquitted on two bribery charges.
He is set to be sentenced on February 6, 2001 where he could face up to 30 years imprisonment plus fines and restitution as punishment.
In his petition motion filed early last month, he asked for reversal of the verdict on the two counts, one involving $5,840.73 in typhoon differential pay and the other the $20,000 reimbursement for a Manila trip, both of which he received in 1996 while heading the Department of Finance.
Mr. Arriola argued these did not constitute violation of federal regulations, thus were not within the jurisdiction of the District Court and instead should be litigated in the CNMI court.
He also raised minimum statutory requirements that were not satisfied by the accusations brought by the federal government against his client, such as the amount stolen as well as the date between commission of the crime and filing of the case.
At one point during yesterday’s proceeding, he reiterated anew the defense’s contention that those expenditures were not fraudulent because they were approved by other CNMI officials.
Mr. Cabrera is also in the process of trying to gather receipts to account for his spending during the Manila trip, according to his lawyer who claimed the $40,000 incurred by his client at that time were justified.
But Judge Munson snapped at Mr. Arriola for such statement. noting that spending $10,000 per day was an “awful lot of money” in Manila or anywhere else.
Assistant District Attorney John Rice, on the other hand, maintained that even if the defendant came up with the receipts, it’s already too late since the payment was made four years ago and that the trial was over.
In fact, he said the CNMI government attempted to collect the unaccounted public funds through letters sent to Mr. Cabrera in the past three years, but the defendant did not respond even once.
Likewise, evidence at the trial had shown that he was not eligible to receive typhoon differential pay, nor he was entitled to it since he was not on the island when two of the typhoons hit and that one storm even did not affect Saipan at all, Mr. Rice argued.
Mr. Cabrera, who is free on bail while awaiting his sentencing, is facing a separate civil complaint filed by the CNMI government in the Superior Court, demanding payment of $74,307.59 that he allegedly squirreled away from the local coffers.