U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona yesterday ordered the postponement again of the jury trial of Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig, and his girlfriend, Evelyn Atalig, but this time due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Manglona vacated the jury trial set to begin tomorrow, Wednesday, and the motion hearing set for today, Tuesday.
A status conference is set for April 29 at 1:30pm.
“The court finds that the interests of justice served by taking this action outweigh the interests of the parties and the public in a speedy trial,” the judge said.
Manglona issued the decision to postpone the trial after holding a conference call with the parties in the case to discuss continuing all proceedings in this case due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Manglona said she and the parties agreed a continuance was warranted due to the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Guam and the March 15 decision of the governors of Guam and the CNMI to close all government offices effective immediately and directing all non-essential employees to remain at home.
At the conference, Mayor Atalig and Ms. Atalig were represented by counsel David G. Banes and Steven P. Pixley, respectively.
Assistant U.S. attorneys Eric O’Malley and Garth Backe appeared for the U.S. government.
The jury trial of the Ataligs supposed to commence last Tuesday, March 10, but Manglona postponed it until tomorrow, Wednesday, due to the arrest last March 9 of Mr. Atalig’s counsel, Banes.
Banes was reportedly arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene after his car hit another vehicle car in Susupe.
The court had postponed the trial several times due to various reasons.
In the federal case, the Ataligs are being charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft from program receiving federal funds, wire fraud, theft from program receiving federal funds, and false statement.
In the Superior Court case, the Office of the Attorney General charged Mayor Atalig and the seven co-defendants with misconduct in public office. It is not clear whether the bench trial in this case against Mayor Atalig and four co-defendants will proceed on March 20.