Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig and his girlfriend, Evelyn Atalig, have withdrawn their two subpoenas addressed to the CNMI Office of the Attorney General’s Criminal Division and Office of the Public Auditor.
David G. Banes, counsel for Efraim Atalig, and assistant U.S. attorney Eric O’Malley, counsel for the U.S. government, informed the U.S. District Court for the NMI Wednesday that the two subpoenas have been taken back.
Banes and O’Malley asked the court to take the April 29 hearing on the U.S. government’s motion to quash the subpoenas off-calendar.
With the parties’ request, Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona issued an order Wednesday denying as moot the U.S. government’s motion to quash the subpoenas. Manglona vacated the April 29 hearing.
Last March 26, Manglona granted the U.S. government’s motion to stay or freeze the execution of the two subpoenas temporarily until such time that the court has ruled on the U.S. government’s motion to quash the two.
In the U.S. government’s motion to quash, O’Malley said the first subpoena was addressed to the CNMI OAG’s Criminal Division and sought the entire personnel records of OPA criminal investigator Travis Hurst. The second subpoena was addressed to the OPA and sought the entire personnel records of Hurst, Edward R. Cabrera, and Juan Santos.
O’Malley disclosed that Travis, Cabrera, and Santos are criminal investigators for OPA, who participated in the investigation of this case and may testify as witnesses for the U.S. government. Before joining OPA, Hurst worked briefly for the CNMI OAG’s Investigative Division.
O’Malley said the two subpoenas were served last March 19 and the return date for both subpoenas was March 26, although no trial date is currently set.
O’Malley said OPA Investigation Division participated in the investigation leading to the filing of the criminal case.
In the U.S. government’s motion to stay, O’Malley asked the court to issue an order staying execution of the two subpoenas pending resolution of the government’s motion to quash.
The prosecutor argued that the information sought by the subpoena relates to employee personnel records, disclosure of which may raise privacy issues or reveal information protected by law or confidentiality agreements.
O’Malley said the subpoenas were issued to CNMI agencies and that it was (and still is) unclear whether those agencies had the ability to file a motion without first being admitted to the District Court.
He said efforts to obtain the necessary documentation for admission of the OPA attorney have been frustrated by the coronavirus-related shutdowns.
O’Malley said the U.S. government has an interest in preventing defendants from harassing its witnesses in this case.
The charges against Efraim and Evelyn Atalig involve at least eight trips taken by the couple at different times in 2018 to Guam, Palau, the U.S. mainland, South Korea, and Saipan.
The Ataligs are charged jointly with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft from program receiving federal funds, wire fraud, and theft from program receiving federal funds. Both are also charged separately with false statement.
Manglona recently ordered the postponement of the jury trial due to the coronavirus pandemic.