Judge: No evidence of ineffective counsel

At least 9 lawyers withdrew as counsel for defendant

Superior Court Associate Judge Teresa Kim-Tenorio is not convinced by the allegations of a convicted child molester that his lawyers—both at the trial and appellate levels—gave him ineffective legal assistance.

In an order on Monday, Kim-Tenorio denied a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by Alfredo E. Reyes, who is currently serving a 30-year prison sentence at the Department of Corrections. Writ of habeas corpus refers to a court order to a prison warden or an institution holding someone in custody to deliver the imprisoned individual to the court issuing the order.

Kim-Tenorio said Reyes provides no facts to support his allegations, except to indirectly complain that his criminal matter did not result in his favor. In fact, the judge said, Reyes’ petition is severely bereft of information regarding ineffective assistance of counsel, or IAC. As such, Kim-Tenorio said, she finds it illogical to arrive at any other conclusion other than to deny Reyes’ petition.

Last April, the CNMI Supreme Court denied Reyes’ petition for a rehearing on his second appeal that seeks to reverse the 30-year prison sentence imposed on him by Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho.

The high court justices said that Reyes has not sufficiently overcome the demanding standard in granting rehearing: he has failed to propose how they have “overlooked or misapprehended” a point of law or fact.

According to court records, Reyes sexually abused a then-16-year-old girl at Laulau Beach in May 2009, at Coral Ocean Point beach in September 2009, and in the jungle area near Hawaiian Rock Co. in December 2009. In 2013, a jury found Reyes guilty of three counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree. Camacho, who presided over the trial, also found the defendant guilty of three counts of assault and battery.

In 2014, Camacho sentenced him to the maximum 30 years of imprisonment without the possibility of parole, probation, early release, work or weekend release. Reyes appealed, asking the Supreme Court to reverse his conviction and sentence.

In 2016, the Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, saying there was ample evidence supporting the conviction. But the high court vacated the sentence and remanded the matter to Camacho for resentencing. In 2017, Camacho resentenced Reyes to the same maximum 30-year imprisonment, saying he did so, so that Reyes will be unable to hurt anyone for the next 30 years. The judge cited Reyes’ serious prior convictions that includes accessory to murder.

Reyes appealed again to the Supreme Court, arguing that Camacho failed to individualize his sentence. But last April the high court affirmed the 30-year sentence.

In their decision, the justices conceded that they found that Camacho procedurally erred by impermissibly using an element of a crime as an aggravating factor; however they did not find plain error because Camacho “relied on a number of other aggravating factors.”

Seeking release from prison, Reyes also filed the petition for a writ of habeas corpus against Department of Corrections Commissioner Wally F. Villagomez.

In denying the petition Monday, Kim-Tenorio said a convicted person bears a burden and must present evidence of unlawful imprisonment.

Here, Kim-Tenorio said, Reyes was convicted by a jury for crimes that are intolerable to a society and, therefore, has the burden to sufficiently plead and prove his grounds for relief.

The judge said merely making vague allegations of inefficient assistance of counsel without an iota of actual examples or evidence will not suffice for a serious inquiry into the legality of Reyes’ imprisonment.

Reyes alleges that his trial attorney in his original criminal matter ineffectively assisted him. But Kim-Tenorio said Reyes provides no evidence supporting his assertion.

Reyes points to the fact that after his sentencing, his attorney and the Public Defender’s Office filed a motion for withdrawal as court-appointed counsel as evidence to support his IAC allegation.

Reyes also alleges that his appellate attorney for his initial trial court sentence failed to comply with his instruction to include IAC of his trial attorney before the CNMI Supreme Court, thus subjecting his appellate attorney to an allegation of IAC as well.

Kim-Tenorio said that, while Reyes makes baseless accusations regarding IAC, she notes that throughout his criminal matter, at least nine court-appointed attorneys either withdrew their representation by their own volition, or were withdrawn due to complaints by Reyes.

Kim-Tenorio said she finds it highly improbable that the reasons for all withdrawals were because the attorneys of the CNMI are incapable.

“And just as before, Reyes attempts to blame the outcome of his fate on others rather than on himself,” the judge said.

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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