A former Rota police officer facing accusations of sexually abusing a minor was acquitted of all charges yesterday.
After about five hours of deliberations, the six jurors unanimously found the 49-year-old Melvin Maratita Manglona not guilty of two counts of sex abuse of a minor in the first degree.
Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho, who presided over the trial, found Manglona not guilty of disturbing the peace.
Although disappointed with the verdict, Chief Prosecutor Michele Harris told Saipan Tribune that they will remain vigilant in seeking justice in cases involving sexual abuse of a minor.
“No victim should ever suffer in silence,” said Harris, who assisted assistant attorney general Teri Tenorio in prosecuting the case.
In rendering his verdict, Camacho said he carefully considered the testimonies and credibility of the witnesses, the exhibits introduced into evidence, and the arguments of counsels.
Camacho found that the government has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Manglona is guilty of the crime of disturbing the peace.
The judge said the repeated verbal and written denials by the 14-year-old girl and her complete denial in court left him with reasonable doubts.
“The court reaches this decision not by ignoring contrasting and conflicting evidence but rather after considering all evidence,” Camacho said.
Camacho stated that the girl testified that everything she told a teacher, the police, and prosecutors were lies and untrue—meaning that Manglona did not sexually abuse her.
None of the other government witnesses saw what happened, he said.
“It is easy to speculate and guess that maybe it could have happened. Guessing is not evidence,” said Camacho, pointing out that the law requires that crimes are proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
In this case, Camacho noted, there is no DNA, no marks or scratches, and no physical evidence.
The judge said the girl, who is the only witness, when questioned by attorneys of both parties, testified that Manglona did not sexually abuse her.
Camacho said there is also testimony by other witnesses that the girl told them that Manglona sexually abused her.
“Both versions are equally believable. Both versions are believable but both cannot be true,” he said.
Camacho said a finding of guilt cannot be based on “maybe it happened, maybe it did not happen.”
The government alleged that Manglona sexually abused the girl last July and August 2016 on Rota. The trial began on Monday. The prosecution called a total of 10 witnesses, including the girl.
Defense counsel Brien Sers Nicholas, counsel for Manglona, did not call any witness.