U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has ordered Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig to appear in court at the hearing for his counsel’s motion to withdraw from representing him in his criminal case.
Manglona set the hearing for today, Wednesday, at 8:30am.
Manglona ordered Atalig to appear personally.
The judge allowed Atalig to appear by telephone from Rota.
David George Banes, a member of the O’Connor Berman Horey and Banes law firm, asked the court to allow their law firm withdraw as counsel for Atalig.
Banes disclosed that Atalig currently owes a substantial amount in unpaid legal fees to their law firm, which is representing him in separate criminal cases pending in federal and local courts.
Banes said so far, the retainers Atalig paid to their law firm have been depleted and the mayor currently owes substantial legal fees, the bulk of which was for the defense in the federal case.
Last December, Atalig, through counsel, informed the court that he may be eligible for a court-appointed counsel.
Last September, Manglona determined that the mayor is not eligible for a court-appointed counsel. This prompted Atalig to hire the O’Connor law firm to represent him.
In federal court, Atalig and his girlfriend, Evelyn M. Atalig, are indicted with five corruption charges for arranging CNMI government-funded trips to California, Republic of Palau, Guam, and Saipan under fraudulent pretenses.
In the Superior Court case, the Office of the Attorney General filed criminal charges against Atalig and seven other Rota municipal officials in connection with the Guam political rally.
The Ataligs pleaded not guilty of all charges. (Ferdie de la Torre)