Judge nixes delay in trial of Rota cop


Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho has denied the Office of the Attorney General’s motion to move the January jury trial of Rota police officer Melvin Maratita Manglona to a later date.

The trial of Manglona, who is facing charges of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl, is set to start on Jan. 10, 2017.

Camacho noted that he set the jury trial of Manglona over three months ago, on Sept. 7, 2016. That means the OAG is well aware of the trial date, he said.

On Tuesday, four weeks before trial, assistant attorney general Betsy Weintraub filed a motion to continue the trial, citing various reasons, including that she is going off-island.

Camacho said he, the court staff, prosecution, defense, and witnesses have all been preparing for the trial.

Camacho said Weintraub now claims that she just realized that the jury trial was set for a date and that she will be off-island.

At the pretrial hearing last Dec. 7, assistant attorney general Matthew Baisley appeared for the government. Attorney Brien Sers Nicholas represented Manglona.

Camacho said the parties informed the court that they are ready for trial.

Camacho said he then ordered the parties to inform their witnesses of the trial date and to make advance travel reservations, hotel and car reservations in Rota to avoid any delays.

He pointed out that the challenges of re-scheduling jury trial on Rota this close to the trial date is almost impossible.

The judge noted that the jury summons have already been issued for 750 potential jurors on Rota.

Camacho said the court has purchased plane tickets, which are non-refundable and that hotel reservations have been made, and the court calendar has been blocked off in order to hold the jury trial.

Camacho said Weintraub’s off-island plans will have to be adjusted as it does not outweigh everyone’s preparation and readiness to proceed with the trial.

In the alternative, the judge said, it is four weeks before the trial, which is ample time for someone in the OAG to prepare for the trial.

Camacho reminded OAG prosecutors that cases are prosecuted by the entire OAG. He said cases may be assigned to individual AAGs, but the responsibility to move forward and prosecute a case falls on the shoulder of the entire OAG.

“Otherwise, cases would come to a complete stop every time an individual assistant attorney general resigns, quits, takes the day off, or goes on vacation,” Camacho said.

Camacho said the jury trial currently set for Jan. 10, 2017, at 9am at the Rota Courthouse shall proceed.

Manglona, 48, pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree and one count of disturbing the peace.

The OAG alleged that Manglona sexually abused the 14-year-old girl last July and Aug. 11, 2016, on Rota.

The girl told police that Manglona has been sexually abusing her since she was 9 and that the recent sexual encounter happened just last Aug. 11.

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 ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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