High court affirms Ogumoro sentence

On Dec. 26, 2017, the CNMI Supreme Court issued its opinion in Commonwealth v. Ambrosio T. Ogumoro, 2017 MP 17. The high court affirmed the trial court’s sentencing and commitment order convicting Ambrosio T. Ogumoro of conspiracy to commit theft of services, theft of services, and misconduct in public office.

Ogumoro was charged for his involvement in a conspiracy to prevent FBI, Office of the Public Audit investigators, and other government officials from serving a penal summons on former attorney general Edward T. Buckingham. He participated in forming an illegal police escort, misappropriating police services. In addition, Ogumoro neglected to serve the penal summons issued for Buckingham. The jury convicted Ogumoro of theft of services and conspiracy to commit theft of services, while the court convicted him of five counts of misconduct in public office and one count each of obstructing justice and criminal coercion. Ogumoro appealed his convictions of Theft of services, conspiracy to commit theft of services, and misconduct in public office.

The Supreme Court reviewed Ogumoro’s convictions. First, the high court examined whether Ogumoro was entitled to have the jury decide the misdemeanor theft of services and conspiracy to commit theft of services charges. Although the Supreme Court found that a change in law during pendency of the appeal would allow a court to examine potential issues for plain error, it determined there was no error in Ogumoro’s case. It concluded the judge was correct in deciding the lesser included misdemeanor offenses, since Ogumoro had not produced substantial evidence of them so as to entitle him to the jury’s consideration. Next, the high court considered whether there was sufficient evidence to convict Ogumoro of felony theft of services over $250. The high court found the evidence produced was sufficient to show the services stolen were valued over $250, upholding the conviction for felony theft. Third, the high court reviewed whether Ogumoro could be convicted of misconduct in public office for not serving Buckingham’s penal summons. Ogumoro argued he had no duty to serve the penal summons because it was signed by the Superior Court clerk of court instead of by a judge. The high court reviewed the policies underlying the Commonwealth’s laws and procedures regarding police officers’ duties to serve warrants and penal summonses, concluding officers could only refuse to serve these documents in limited circumstances, none of which were present.

As a result, the high court affirmed Ogumoro’s convictions. The high court’s full opinion is available at http://www.cnmilaw.org/supreme17.html. (PR)

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