A Superior Court jury rendered a unanimous not guilty verdict late Friday afternoon in the retrial of Michael Anthony Jackson, a 38-year-old man accused of kidnapping and raping a then-15-year-old girl in 2010 on Saipan.
After deliberating for less than two hours, the jury comprising five women and one man reached the verdict finding Jackson not guilty of the charges of kidnapping and sexual assault in the first degree.
Jackson was calm when court staff read the verdict at 6:05pm.
The alleged victim testified on Thursday afternoon and resumed her testimony Friday morning.
Attorney Charles Reyes Jr. served as the 8th court-appointed counsel for Jackson. It was Reyes’ first trial.
In an interview, Reyes said he respects the Office of the Attorney General. He said the prosecutors did a good job and are skilled attorneys. Reyes said he also appreciate Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho’s handling of the court.
“He is very knowledgeable. He has great knowledge and I enjoy practicing before him,” Reyes said.
Assistant attorneys general Betsy Weintraub and Shannon Foley, who represented the government in this case, refused to comment.
Camacho presided over the retrial of Jackson that began on Tuesday.
In the government’s closing arguments, Foley asked the jurors to look at the car which is the most compelling evidence in this case.
Foley said the victim and other witnesses consistently described the car as a Honda Civic having a distinctive headlight marking and a star sticker.
Foley said it is the distinctive car that Jackson used in kidnapping the girl, and the scene where he sexually assaulted her on the early morning of Oct. 9, 2010.
Foley said the victim’s cousin remembers Jackson, the driver of the car with a star sticker who went straight in the direction of the victim, who was then walking on her way home.
Foley said another witness saw Jackson’s car and when the victim crossed the street before a bus stop.
Foley said the only person to tell of what happened after the bus stop was the victim.
Foley said Ferdinand Martin, a security guard at Skyway Café and Poker in Dandan, testified that he saw the victim crying and going straight to their restroom on the early morning of Oct. 9, 2010.
Foley said that, according to the guard, the victim stayed in the restroom for five to 10 minutes.
Foley said a police officer, who was among those who responded and investigated the case, looked for Jackson and saw the defendant sleeping in his car that marked the descriptions of the subject vehicle.
Foley said the doctor’s report on the victim’s examination showed injuries consistent with laceration and penetration. Foley said the medical record shows the girl was forced into the car. The prosecutor said the victim testified that she didn’t want to get in that car.
Foley said the victim testified that she ran from the Saipan airport field toward Skyway Café and Poker in Dandan and hid in the bathroom.
Foley said if all the evidence is pieced together, there is a whole picture of what happened to the victim after the bus stop.
In Jackson’s closing arguments, Reyes said this case is about reasonable doubt and inconsistencies.
Of all the witnesses in this case, it was security guard, Martin, who is the most credible because he has no interest in this case, Reyes said.
Reyes said Martin testified that he saw the girl come into Skyway Café and Poker and that she was crying as she went straight to the restroom.
Reyes said after five to 10 minutes, the girl came out so Martin asked her if she was fine.
Reyes said the girl did not say anything and went into a car.
“Reasonable doubt. It’s all scattered,” Reyes said.
Reyes asked why the government did not present the surveillance camera’s footage at Skyway Café and other establishments near Skyway.
Reyes said the security guard said he did not see the girl having injuries to the face or other parts of the body.
Reyes said if the girl was indeed rape, why she did not report it to the guard or asked the guard to call the police.
“Reasonable doubt, come on. This is ridiculous,” Reyes said.
Reyes said the guard, nurse, and doctor testified that the girl had no external injuries.
He said when the girl testified on the first day, she was not looking at the people in the courtroom and her hair covered her face like a veil.
“There’s some doubt here,” Reyes said.
Reyes said the girl does not remember a lot of things.
“You should not have to take a leap of faith,” Reyes told the jurors.
In the government’s rebuttal, Weintraub said the reason why the girl can’t look at Jackson during her testimony because she was traumatized.
Weintraub said it was a horrific experience, a nightmare for a then-15-year-old girl raped by a 32-year-old stranger.
Weintraub said the girl ran away from the airport field because Jackson raped her in the car.
“It’s not fair. It’s not fair what she had to go through,” the prosecutor said.
Weintraub said people should listen to the voice of sexual assault victims like this girl in this case and show them that justice does exist.
On April 26, 2013, the jury found Jackson guilty of kidnapping and sexual assault in the first degree. Camacho, who decided on the misdemeanor charge, also found the defendant guilty of assault.
On May 15, 2013, Camacho slapped the then-34-year-old
Jackson with a jail maximum term of 40 years and six months without possibility of parole.
Jackson appealed. He asked the CNMI high court to reverse his convictions and remand the matter for a new trial, or in the alternative for re-sentencing.
Last Dec. 30, the CNMI Supreme Court reversed the conviction and remanded Jackson’s case to Superior Court for a new trial.
The justices ruled that the trial court erred in not repeating substantive jury instructions at the close of evidence.
Police said the girl was walking along Tun Joaquin Doi Road in Finasisu from an Internet café and was on her way home on Oct. 9, 2010, at about 1am when Jackson forced her into his car, brought her to an open field at the Saipan airport, and raped her inside his car. He then forced the girl to smoke methamphetamine or “ice.”
The girl later managed to run away, police said.
During the first trial in April 2013, then-AAG Nicole Driscoll prosecuted the case. Chief Public Defender Douglas Hartig and then-assistant public defender Daniel Guidotti served as counsel for Jackson.
Jackson told reporters that at the time he consumed 16 cans of beer and was on his way to pick up his girlfriend when the girl asked for a ride to China Town.
Jackson said he told the girl that he was too drunk and did not have enough gas. He said the girl got in and in fact, she was the one who drove the car.
Jackson said he does not even know whether he had actually sex with the girl.
When told that his lawyers argued that he had consensual sex with the girl, Jackson said he only admitted that he had consensual sex with the girl as an excuse because he could not explain to his wife the hickeys on his neck.