Govendo places Mondala on home confinement

Former Office of Aging director Rose DLG. Mondala and her counsel, Loren Sutton, emerge from the courtroom of Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo after a hearing yesterday on Mondala’s motion to stay the execution of the one-year prison sentence slapped against her. Govendo placed Mondala under home confinement as he also placed the motion under advisement.

Former Office of Aging director Rose DLG. Mondala and her counsel, Loren Sutton, emerge from the courtroom of Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo after a hearing yesterday on Mondala’s motion to stay the execution of the one-year prison sentence slapped against her. Govendo placed Mondala under home confinement as he also placed the motion under advisement.

Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo yesterday placed under advisement former Office of Aging director Rose DLG. Mondala’s motion to stay the execution of a one-year prison term slapped against her, as he ordered her under home confinement.

Govendo issued the order after hearing the parties’ arguments and the testimony of Department of Corrections Commissioner Georgia Cabrera, who assured that DOC can provide adequate medical care to the 71-year-old Mondala.

Govendo said while under home confinement, Mondala is only allowed to leave her house if she is going to church, hospital, and drug store.

The judge suggested to defense attorney Loren Sutton to file instead a motion for reconsideration of the sentencing order.

Assistant attorney general Matthew Baisley, counsel for the government, informed the court that the Commonwealth requested that Cabrera review Mondala’s health issues described in Dr. Vicente S. Aldan’s medical condition letter, and prepare a document stating whether or not DOC is equipped to care for Mondala during her incarceration.

Baisley said Cabrera wrote a letter to Govendo last June 2 in response to the court’s concern.

In the letter, Cabrera stated that although Aldan’s letter states that Mondala has a number of health conditions and requires numerous medications on a daily basis, she did not see any information that indicates to her that DOC would be unable to meet her medical needs if she is incarcerated.

Cabrera noted that DOC has housed prisoners with a variety of medical needs in the past.

“Overall, based on these prior experiences and Mrs. Mondala’s current medical conditions as I understand them, her situation does not appear to be of such a nature that the department would be unable to provide her with adequate medical care,” the commissioner said.

In her testimony, Cabrera said DOC currently has prisoners who are sickly and elderly.

Cabrera said currently, there are 11 female inmates at DOC and that there are two female Corrections officers at any given shift.

Cabrera said with respect to prisoners under medication, DOC has a medication chart that the officers would follow.

She also disclosed that DOC now has a full-time nurse and there is also a doctor at the Commonwealth Health Center who is available for DOC.

In response to Govendo’s question, Cabrera said at present DOC has no female inmate who is over 70 years old.

The commissioner said the nurse can monitor Mondala’s blood sugar if she will be incarcerated.

She said inmates with medications are being checked periodically.

Mondala told the court she checked her own blood sugar five times a day.

Mondala said when she was detained at DOC, she was scared because DOC officers don’t know what to do when a female inmate had a medical problem and she almost died.

Govendo said the CNMI is a nation of diabetic patients. He said people like to eat two cups of rice each during breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus “six packs” [of beer].

Mondala said there are 8,000 diabetics monitored on the island, including her and Govendo.

Govendo admitted he is indeed a diabetic and that’s why he knows about these things.

Govendo said he watches his sugar, “very, very carefully.”

The judge then stated that he is placing the motion to stay under advisement and will issue a written order.

Govendo said he agrees with everything that then-associate judge David A. Wiseman stated in imposing a one-year imprisonment sentence on Mondala.

However, he said, Mondala’s situation due to her health condition is more complicated.

Govendo said rice is really a killer.

Govendo cited that before World War II, there was no report that a Chamorro or a Carolinian had diabetes. He said it’s only after rice and Spam were introduced when people started to get diabetes.

The judge then stated that maybe there were already people with diabetes before, but nobody knew about it and they just died.

Sutton said putting Mondala in jail with her numerous medical conditions poses a very dangerous situation for her.

Govendo said after examining Cabrera, she’s very candid that there is no female inmate at DOC with age over 70 years old.

Govendo said putting Mondala in jail would make her the most monitored inmate in the history of CNMI DOC.

The judge then asked Baisley if the government’s position is still agreeing to the one-year prison term when its original recommendation is home confinement.

Baisley said his personal opinion is to put Mondala on house arrest or home confinement.

However, Baisley said, Wiseman in sentencing Mondala already considered the health issue and that the Office of the Attorney General has no business in questioning the judge’s discretion.

The prosecutor said they did not see any error in Wiseman’s order.

Last Feb. 25, Mondala pleaded guilty to one count of forgery and one count of use of public supplies, time, and personnel for campaign activities. The charges stemmed from using the Aging Office’s funds and materials for the needs of the Covenant Party during the 2009 elections and to build a fence at her house in Kagman.

Last May 18, Wiseman slapped Mondala with a one-year prison term.

Wiseman said he has reviewed the doctor’s report stating the numerous illnesses Mondala has and the medication being administered.

The judge said he has taken this factor into consideration in sentencing the defendant.

However, Wiseman said, a medical condition although can and will mitigate the sentence, “it will not cancel it out.”

Mondala then filed a motion to stay execution of the prison term pending the outcome of her appeal to the CNMI Supreme Court.

Sutton argued that his client is not a flight risk, has serious and life threatening health problems, and is no threat to the public.

Sutton recommended a home confinement pending the outcome of their appeal.

Baisley said the Commonwealth sticks to its position that the court should deny the motion as Mondala has not raised a substantial question of law or fact that Wiseman was in error that likely to result in reversal.

Last May 31, Govendo granted for a week a stay of the execution of the one-year prison term. Mondala was supposed to start serving the prison term last June 1.

At the May 31 hearing, Govendo stated he needs to conduct legal research on the issue and wants more information whether DOC has enough female staff who could watch Mondala.

Govendo also ordered the parties to come back yesterday for the continuation of the hearing on the defendant’s motion to stay.

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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