‘Cops didn’t violate rights of ex-official in ice case’

Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho has denied a motion filed by Tilford S. Toves to suppress the statements he gave police officers after being arrested for alleged trafficking of methamphetamine or “ice.”

In an order on Wednesday, Camacho found the testimonies of police officers Francis Manglona and Paul Ogumoro to be credible and ruled that what they did to Toves was a standard arrest.

Camacho said the officers holstered their guns as soon as it was clear that Toves was complying with the arrest.

The judge noted that when Toves was taken to the Drug Enforcement Administration office on Saipan, his handcuffs were removed, and the officers allowed him to eat and drink.

In addition, based on testimony, Camacho said he finds that Toves was not misled or deceived by Ogumoro.

Camacho said Ogumoro not only read through the waiver of rights form with Toves, but he also allowed him to scratch out a signature and make a correction on the form.

Toves is a former Rota Finance Procurement and Supply acting administrator.

In June 2014, police officers arrested Toves and then-Commonwealth Health Center administrative staff Berlinda C. Flawau for alleged trafficking of “ice” on Rota.

The two’s arrest came about after police discovered, through a confidential source, that Flawau allegedly sent a package to Toves containing 20 baggies of “ice” from Saipan to Rota on June 11, 2014.

Officers allegedly seized $1,000 worth of “ice” during the operation.

The Office of the Attorney General charged Toves with attempted illegal possession of a controlled substance, conspiracy to commit trafficking of a controlled substance, and restriction upon the use of a government vehicle.

Toves, through assistant public defender Matthew Meyer, filed a motion to suppress his statements.

Meyer argued, among other things, that Toves was unnecessarily coerced and intimidated by Rota police, who arrested him with guns drawn.

In the government’s opposition, Chief Prosecutor Leonardo Rapadas asserted that Toves’ constitutional rights were not violated as DPS personnel did not interrogate him while on Rota; DPS repeatedly asked him whether he understood each of his constitutional rights from a “Waiver of Rights” form, which he answered “yes” and initialed next to each question.

At the hearing on the motion last Friday, the court heard the testimonies of Manglona, Ogumoro, and Toves.

In denying the motion, Camacho said that based on a totality of the circumstances, Toves knowingly and voluntarily waived his rights.

Camacho said Toves initialed each line of the waiver form, and ultimately signed the bottom of the form.

Then, the judge noted, Toves began to voluntarily answer Ogumoro’s questions.

“Thus, the defendant’s statements to officer Ogumoro were made knowingly and voluntarily,” Camacho said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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