Atalig says he may now be eligible for court-appointed counsel

Girlfriend’s arraignment today in federal court

Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig, through his private counsel, has informed the federal court that he may be eligible for a court-appointed counsel.

During the initial appearance/arraignment last Friday, defense counsel Denny Nie of the O’Connor, Berman, Horey, and Banes law firm asked U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona for the release of Atalig’s previous financial disclosure affidavit to their law firm due to changes in the mayor’s financial status.

Manglona stated that electronic case files access was just given to Atalig’s counsel for his document and that they may file a motion after reviewing that docket entry.

Last Sept. 5, Manglona determined that Atalig is not eligible for a court-appointed counsel.

Manglona said Atalig would be able to hire his own lawyer to represent him.

This prompted the mayor to hire the O’Connor law firm to represent him.

Meanwhile, the initial appearance/arraignment hearing of Atalig’s girlfriend and co-defendant, Evelyn Atalig, will be today, Monday, at 11am.

The hearing was supposed to be held last Thursday, but Evelyn Atalig, through counsel Steven P. Pixley, and assistant U.S. attorney Eric O’Malley agreed to continue the hearing for today.

As of last Thursday, Pixley was handling a trial before an administrative law judge in the U.S. District Court of Guam.

Last Thursday, Mayor Atalig pleaded not guilty to a superseding indictment that charged him with four charges—conspiracy, wire fraud, theft from program receiving federal funds, and one count of false statements.

Evelyn Atalig faces the same charges.

The superseding indictment accused Mayor Atalig and Ms. Atalig of making CNMI government-funded trips to California, Palau, Guam, and Saipan using false pretenses.

Despite the filing of the original indictment last August, Efraim Atalig was re-elected as Rota mayor last Nov. 13.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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