Ex-Sports & Rec official gets 18-month prison term

»Ex-gov, senators ask for leniency

Former Division of Sports and Recreation deputy director John Benavente Reyes Jr. was slapped yesterday with an 18-month prison term for violating his probation in connection with his 2012 criminal case conviction.

Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman sentenced the 38-year-old Reyes to two years imprisonment, all suspended except for 18 months, for probation violation.

The defendant was allowed to start serving the prison term at the Department of Corrections on Monday.

Wiseman said after serving the prison term, Reyes will be placed on six months of probation.

Wiseman said although he was persuaded in the past by the parties that Reyes was a good risk for a suspended sentence and probation, the defendant has continually shown a blatant disregard for the court’s orders and terms and conditions of probation.

The judge said this included, among other things, not complying with a house arrest previously ordered.

Wiseman said in its submission, the Office of the Attorney General states that Reyes is essentially mocking the court by disobeying every order it has made.

Wiseman said the court must make it clear that defendants cannot treat court orders as mere suggestions.

“Probation was not a suggestion. House arrest was not a suggestion. Rehabilitation was not a suggestion,” Wiseman said.

The judge said following the law is not a suggestion and that Reyes deserves two years for failing to follow the law on a consistent basis.

Wiseman said he finds it difficult to disagree with the government’s statement and finds their recommendation of the maximum sentence of two years warranted in this case.

However, Wiseman pointed out, he does find mitigating circumstances, such as the support letters of prominent members of the community and defendant’s remorseful statement.

Among those who wrote letters to the court, requesting for lenient sentence on Reyes were former governor Juan N. Babauta and Sens. Arnold I. Palacios (R-Saipan), Justo Quitugua (Ind-Saipan), and Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota).

The judge noted Reyes’ several prior criminal convictions.

Wiseman said Reyes has a terrible and egregious history before the court notwithstanding the fact that he has received what could be considered some very lenient and accommodating sentences in view of the repeated violations of law.

Reyes wrote a letter to Wiseman, begging for lenient sentence.

“I want to put my life back together and I ask that you help me in doing this,” the defendant told Wiseman.

Reyes admitted that he has a drug problem.

“But most of all in my heart, I want to change,” he said.

Assistant public defender Michael Sato, counsel for the defendant, recommended a suspended sentence and for Reyes to continue on supervised probation, with condition that he be re-enrolled into the Lighthouse Recovery Program in Guam.

“Mr. Reyes is a drug addict and he does not belong in prison. He belongs in a clinic,” Sato said.

Assistant attorney general Emily Cohen recommended the maximum sentence of two years imprisonment.

Cohen said Reyes has been given every opportunity to seek help, and he has turned it down.

“At this point, he should spend significant time in the Department of Corrections to show him that repeated ice use in the CNMI will not be tolerated,” the prosecutor said.

Last year, Reyes was sentenced to four months imprisonment for pleading guilty to his two criminal cases and admitting to violating his probation.

The defendant pleaded guilty to the offense of illegal possession of controlled substance in the 2014 case and pleaded guilty to the offenses of illegal possession of controlled substance and contempt of court in the 2015 criminal case.

He conceded to have violated his probation in the 2012 criminal conviction. His sentencing yesterday was with this violation probation.

According to the factual basis of the plea agreement, on Sept. 25, 2014, and on Jan. 30, 2015, on Saipan, Reyes had “ice” in his possession.

Reyes admitted to violating the terms and conditions of his probation by failing to obey all laws when he was arrested for possession of “ice” on Sept. 25, 2014, Oct. 10, 2014, Jan. 30, 2015, and April 29, 2015, and has not paid his fine or court fees.

The government agreed to dismiss in its entirety defendant’s another criminal case in 2014. The prosecution also agreed not to file charges against the defendant in other police criminal case in 2015.

In November 2013, Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo sentenced Reyes to three months in prison for shattering the driver’s side of a car with a baseball bat and assaulting the driver, Derek Reyes, at a stop light on Beach Road, Garapan on Sept. 2, 2012.

According to court documents, the defendant assaulted the driver upon seeing his former girlfriend in the car.

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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