‘Introducing 3 more trips will lead jury astray’


The defense lawyer of Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig argues that citing three additional trips in the mayor’s trial wouldn’t help the U.S. government prove its case against the mayor and could possibly lead the jury astray.

David George Banes, the court-appointed counsel for Atalig, pointed out that even the U.S. government has difficulties articulating a logical claim linking it to the charges the mayor faces.

Banes made the argument in Atalig’s reply to the U.S. government’s opposition to the mayor’s motion to exclude evidence relating to the additional trips.

Banes said the U.S. District Court for the NMI should preclude the U.S. government from introducing evidence related to the three additional trips.

The prosecution earlier notified Atalig that it intends to introduce evidence relating to three trips.

The indictment charged Atalig and his girlfriend, Evelyn M. Atalig, over five other trips.

Mayor Atalig had filed a motion to prevent the prosecution from introducing those evidence at trial.

The U.S. government, through counsel assistant attorney general Eric O’Malley, opposed mayor Atalig’s motion.

O’Malley cited, among other things, that mayor Atalig traveled with a 20-person delegation from Rota, including his girlfriend, to attend a conference on traditional medicine at the University of Guam in January 2018, but the two only showed up on the first day and did not attend the remaining three days of the event.

O’Malley said Evelyn Atalig later filed a misleading post-travel report which made it sound as if she had attended the conference every day.

O’Malley said mayor Atalig authorized Evelyn Atalig to receive the balance of her per diem payment based on that false submission.

In mayor Atalig’s opposition filed Tuesday, Banes said the U.S. government is silent as to what Mr. and Ms. Atalig did when they did not go to the conference. “If they engaged in official activities, would [Evelyn] Atalig not be entitled to receive per diem?” Banes asked.

As to the other two of the three additional trips, Banes said the U.S. government does not even mention what specific conduct of Efraim Atalig it expects to show.

“The government has failed to show there is sufficient evidence showing mayor Atalig engaged in uncharged fraudulent conduct,” he said.

The defense counsel said evidence of the three additional trips, if offered by the prosecution, would be “highly prejudicial.”

Banes said the U.S. government has failed to show that the three additional trips can be characterized as part of the same scheme.

He said evidence of the three additional trips does not prove a modus operandi.

The Ataligs are indicted on five corruption charges for arranging CNMI government-funded trips to California, Palau, Guam, and Saipan under allegedly fraudulent pretenses.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty.

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
Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.