The scheduled status conference in federal court yesterday afternoon in the case against Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig did not push through.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona re-scheduled the status conference to Thursday, Sept. 13, at 10am. The reason was not indicated in Manglona’s order yesterday. But Saipan Tribune learned that it’s because of Typhoon Mangkhut that battered Rota on Monday.
Atalig is currently on Rota. He was allowed to appear telephonically at the status conference.
The jury trial is scheduled to start on Oct. 16, 2018. Filing of motions is due by Oct. 9.
At the arraignment last Wednesday, Atalig, through temporary counsel Bruce Berline, pleaded not guilty to an indictment that charged him with one count of wire fraud.
The range of punishment for the offense is between zero to 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
The indictment alleged that Atalig arranged a government-funded trip from Rota to Guam for himself and 12 others on a false claim that he was going to check for surplus equipment at the Naval Base in Guam.
Atalig allegedly actually went to Guam to participate in a political rally of the Republican Party last June 23 in Mangilao.
Manglona earlier determined that Atalig is not eligible for a court-appointed counsel.
Manglona authorized Atalig to remain at liberty pending his trial, but prohibited him from leaving the CNMI without the court’s permission.
In Superior Court, where Atalig has also been charged, the Office of the Attorney General charged him and seven other municipal officials each with theft and misconduct in public office arising from the same political rally. The defendants’ arraignment in local court is scheduled on Sept. 28.