Man gets 4 years in prison for choking, suffocating girlfriend in front of child


A repeat offender from Palau who pleaded guilty to assaulting his girlfriend and threatening to kill her and her 2-year-old son was sentenced Wednesday to two years in prison.

Twenty-seven-year-old Lawson Santiago Renguul Jr. was sentenced to a total of four years imprisonment, all suspended except for two years, for three counts of assault and battery, and one count of unlawful contact.

Besides threatening to kill her, he was accused of dragging, choking, and suffocating his girlfriend with a pillow at their apartment on Capital Hill.

Renguul was given credit for time served. He was ordered to serve the two-year sentence without the possibility of parole.

He was required to perform 200 hours of community service and complete counseling. He is also prohibited from having any contact with the victim and her son.

Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho said the sentence is appropriate because Renguul hit his girlfriend in the presence of her child.

Renguul, in defiance of a protection order, made contact with the victim, Camacho said.

The judge did note that the victim was not seriously hurt and did not require medical treatment.

In her statement, the victim said she and her son continue to suffer mentally, that Renguul had threatened to kill her son to prevent her from calling the police.

Camacho gave weight to Renguul’s prior criminal conviction in Palau.

He noted that Renguul’s own sister wrote a letter to the court to ask that Renguul not be sent back to Palau as he is a troublemaker and that there are no rehabilitation or counseling there.

Renguul admitted to drinking alcohol every day, but denied using drugs.

The judge deemed Renguul, a citizen of Palau, to be not a good candidate for rehabilitation.

Camacho directed the clerk of court to provide the U.S. Department of Homeland Security-Immigration and Customs Enforcement a copy of the sentencing and commitment order.

Assistant attorney general Betsy Weintraub recommended the maximum sentence of four years in prison. Chief Public Defender Douglas Hartig, counsel for Renguul, recommended a prison sentence of one year and probation.

Hartig argued that Camacho mechanically imposes maximum sentences, which the judge denied. Citing records, he said Hartig exaggerates by “cherry picking” samples of Camacho’s judgments and commitment orders.

Renguul pleaded guilty to three counts of assault and battery-domestic violence, and one count of unlawful contact as part of a plea deal.

The Office of the Attorney General first charged Renggul last Aug. 31 with six charges, which carry a maximum sentence of nine years in prison.

Last Feb. 1, the OAG filed a fourth amended information containing four charges to reflect that count 4 assault and battery-domestic violence is a lesser-included offense for the charge of assault with a dangerous weapon. The charges still carry a maximum sentence of four years.

Renguul has no prior convictions in the CNMI.

According to the plea agreement, Renguul brandished and hit the victim in the stomach with a knife during their argument on Aug. 2, 2016.

Renguul put his arm around the victim’s neck and covered her nose and mouth on Aug. 18, 2016.

Renguul was arrested on Aug 19, 2016. He was later released as police then did further investigation.

After his release on Aug. 20, Renguul went to the victim’s residence, located the victim in her car, jumped on the hood, and threatened to hurt her.

Renguul entered the car and removed her son from the vehicle while she was on the phone with the police.

Renguul attempted to communicate to the victim with the intent of encouraging her to drop the charges, or not cooperate with the investigation or prosecution of the case.

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

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