Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo has converted to house arrest the one-year prison sentence that then-associate judge David A. Wiseman slapped against former Office of Aging director Rose DLG Mondala for her conviction of corruption charges.
In granting Mondala’s motion to reduce her sentence on Thursday, Govendo stressed his admiration of Wiseman’s sentencing order and stated that he understands the goals intended by Wiseman’s sentencing decision.
However, Govendo said, he must weigh the risks of defendant’s fragility and the possible adverse effect a prolonged imprisonment would have on her health.
“The ends of justice will not be had if the punishment causes defendant her life,” he said.
Govendo said his order is a rare and difficult one for him to make and is not intended to apply broadly to all inmates who suffer from various illnesses and of old age.
Rather, the judge said, his order stresses a case-by-case review.
Govendo said the 71-year-old Mondala may only leave her house for medical and hospital care.
Govendo said Mondala may leave her house to meet with her attorney, attend church, and court proceedings.
The judge ordered the Department of Public Safety to perform routine random checks to ensure that defendant is complying with the court’s order.
Govendo said in the event that Mondala does not comply, after a hearing, the court may impose jail time.
Govendo said all other sentencing conditions imposed in Wiseman’s order shall remain in effect.
Govendo, however, denied Mondala’s motion to correct the restitution portion of Wiseman’s order.
The judge set the restitution hearing for Oct. 11, 2016 at 1:30pm.
Govendo issued the order after Mondala, through counsel Loren Sutton, moved to correct or reduce the one-year prison term slapped against her by Wiseman. Wiseman is now a retired judge.
Mondala asked Govendo instead to sentence him to home confinement.
Sutton cited the sentences imposed on former governor Benigno R. Fitial and former attorney general Edward T. Buckingham who were “spared” a jail sentence for health reasons.
Sutton said to achieve the sentencing goal of consistency, Mondala should receive the same consideration given to Fitial and Buckingham.
Sutton said in sentencing Fitial and Buckingham, the court based a lenient sentence on poor health factors and where the charges of conviction were of a more serious nature and involved persons in high positions who committed acts of corruption exceeding the nature of the acts of Mondala.
Mondala filed the motion to correct or reduce sentence after Govendo recently suggested to her counsel, Sutton, to file a motion for reconsideration of the sentence as he placed her motion to stay execution of the prison term pending her appeal to the CNMI Supreme Court.
In Mondala’s motion to correct or reduce sentence, Sutton said his client’s guilty plea to one count of felony forgery with a loss of $68, and one count of misdemeanor use of public supplies, time and personnel for campaign activities, was entered pursuant to a plea bargain where the Office of the Attorney General recommended six months of home confinement in lieu of jail time.
Sutton said this recommendation in the plea offer was justified due to Mondala’s serious medical condition.
On the reduction issue, Sutton said Mondala is seriously ill with a variety of life-threatening medical conditions, which Govendo is aware from Dr. Vicente Aldan’s comprehensive letter.
Sutton said his concern, as well as of Govendo’s, is that a sentence to the Department of Corrections could well endanger Mondala’s health and that a missed of delayed insulin shot could even kill her.
Citing a previous U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Sutton said an order to pay restitution for dismissed counts after a plea is improper in the absence of a waiver contained in the plea agreement.
Sutton said there was no such waiver in Mondala’s plea agreement and even if there was, Wiseman was clear that he would accept the plea but without the AG’s sentencing recommendation which included a recommendation for restitution.
Last May 31, Govendo granted for a week a stay of the execution of the one-year prison term. Mondala was supposed to start serving the prison term last June 1.