IN CASE AGAINST DRIVER IN 2016 FATAL CAR CRASH

FBI withdraws complaint vs driver who fled CNMI to Korea

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Robert A. Guerrero had sought from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2016 the arrest of a Korean national who fled the CNMI to avoid prosecution after he was found drunk while driving recklessly resulting in him crashing his car to a pine tree and a power pole on Saipan, killing one of his two passengers.

According to documents filed before the U.S. District Court for the NMI on Nov. 25, 2016 and unsealed Monday, Guerrero wrote a letter to FBI special agent Hae Jun Park, requesting assistance in capturing the driver, Jai Young Choi, in the Republic of Korea and extraditing him back to CNMI to face justice.

Guerrero said in consultation with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, the CNMI government is willing to shoulder all cost of extraditing Choi back to the CNMI “to face justice.”

Following the commissioner’s request, FBI special agent Park filed on Nov. 25, 2016 a criminal complaint against Choi for the crime of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. The complaint was then sealed.

Last Monday, assistant U.S. attorney James Benedetto, counsel for the U.S. government, moved the District Court to unseal the case and dismiss the criminal complaint.

Benedetto said the CNMI government has declined to pursue extradition of Choi from the Republic of Korea, necessitating dismissal of the unlawful flight to avoid prosecution charge.

Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona granted Monday the U.S. government’s motion to unseal and dismiss the complaint.

In his Nov. 9, 2016 letter to the FBI, Guerrero noted that in the past years, few Korean nationals had committed crimes and have fled the CNMI to avoid prosecution.

“With this type of behavior there have been words out within the community that if they commit a crime, they may avoid prosecution by taking the next flight out,” the commissioner said.

Guerrero said after the investigation was completed, Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph Camacho issued an arrest warrant against Choi with the bail amount set at $100,000 cash.

Guerrero said, however, the arrest warrant was not served as Choi had already fled the CNMI.

In his affidavit in support of criminal complaint and arrest warrants, FBI special agent Park said Choi was the driver of the four-door Hyundai Azera that slid off the roadway and struck a tree and utility pole on Beach Road in San Jose, Saipan in the evening of Feb. 27, 2016.

Park said Choi was found drunk and admitted to police officers he had consumed “five Soju and two to three beers.”

Officers determined that Choi was speeding.

Dae Young Kwon, the male passenger in the front seat, was ejected from the car upon impact. He died from the injuries the following day, Feb. 28.

Another passenger, Hui Ra Jung, was observed unconscious in the back seat of the vehicle.

Camacho issued the arrest warrant for Choi after he determined there was probable cause for his arrest on charges of homicide by vehicle, reckless driving, driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and exceeding speed limits.

However, Park said, the warrant was not executed as Choi fled the CNMI on Feb. 28 on a Jeju Airlines flight bound for Seoul, Korea.

MD: Department of Public Safety commissioner Robert A. Guerrero had sought from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2016 for the arrest of a Korean national who fled the CNMI to avoid prosecution after he was found drunk while driving recklessly a car resulting to a crash to a pine tree and a power pole in San Jose, Saipan, killing one of his two passengers.

KW: Jeju Airlines, Jai Young Choi, Robert Guerrero.

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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