U.S. District Court for the NMI designated Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood has denied an inmate’s motion to reconsider her dismissal of his claim that a Superior Court judge’s partial recusal from his case violated his right to due process.
Tydingco-Gatewood ruled that inmate Anthony Rios has not established that the CNMI Supreme Court’s decision in his case was contrary to clearly established federal law.
Tydingco-Gatewood said the Superior Court judge’s partial recusal did not violate Rios’ right to due process, as determined by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Accordingly, Rios’s motion to reconsider is denied,” she said.
In his petition for habeas corpus, Rios claimed he was denied his 14th Amendment right to due process because the Superior Court judge only recused himself from the sentencing stage when he should have recused himself from the entire case.
Rios also claimed a violation of his Fifth Amendment protection against double jeopardy because the Superior Court incorrectly calculated his sentence at his probation revocation.
Tydingco-Gatewood dismissed without prejudice Rios’ petition for writ of habeas corpus as to double jeopardy claim. That means Rios may re-file the claim in the future.
Tydingco-Gatewood said she dismisses this claim without prejudice because Rios has a post-conviction proceeding pending in the Superior Court and therefore has not exhausted all remedies available in CNMI courts.
Tydingco-Gatewood also found that Rios has not made a substantial showing of the denial of his constitutional right to due process.
She said because Rios has a pending state collateral proceeding, his claim regarding his sentence is not yet exhausted.
On preliminary view, Tydingco-Gatewood dismissed the due process claim, which it found the CNMI Supreme Court had decided on independent and adequate Commonwealth law grounds, but allowed the double jeopardy claim.
However, because Rios had also filed a petition for habeas review in the CNMI court, his ability to move forward on that claim in federal court depends on whether it has been exhausted in the Superior Court).
Rios is serving a 45-year prison term for sexual crimes. He filed a petition for habeas corpus and named the DOC commissioner as respondent.
Rios alleged that then-DOC commissioner Vincent Attao denied his request to use the computer with internet so he could research to support his case.
Writ of habeas corpus refers to a court order to a person (prison warden or institution) holding someone in custody to deliver the imprisoned individual to the court issuing the order.
According to court records, Rios pleaded guilty in 1997 to three counts of sexual abuse of a child, two counts of oral copulation, and one count of rape. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment.
After his release from prison in 2003, Rios reoffended and was sentenced to five years imprisonment.
In 2012, the defendant reoffended again and was charged with two counts of sexual assault in the second degree, two counts of assault and battery, and two counts of disturbing the peace. Based upon those charges, the government sought to revoke his probation in both the 1997 and 2003 cases.
Before revoking the probation, a trial judge presiding over the revocation hearing—different from the one who had presided over the 1997 and 2003 cases—denied his request for a presentence investigation report.
In 2012, Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho sentenced Rios to the maximum 45 years for the 1997 and 2003 cases.
Rios appealed, but in 2015 the CNMI Supreme Court affirmed his conviction and the 45-year prison term that Camacho had imposed.