OAG asks for 30-day extension to file a notice of appeal in hit-and-run case


The Office of the Attorney General has requested the Superior Court to give the CNMI government 30 more days to appeal a decision about restitution issue in a fatal vehicular hit-and-run case.

Assistant attorney general J. Robert Glass Jr. said the extension is needed to allow Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho to address the government’s motion for reconsideration of his ruling.

Last March 30, Camacho ruled that the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. are not entitled to restitution over Melton Agulto’s death because they are only third-party indirect victims.

Camacho denied the government’s request to hold defendant Esekiel “Easy” Smith liable to pay $1,866 in restitution for the medical services provided by DFEMS and CHCC to Agulto.

The judge, however, found that Smith is liable for $4,972 in restitution to Agulto’s mother, Gloria Cabrera. Smith conceded he owed that amount.

The OAG then filed the motion that asks Camacho to reconsider his ruling.

In the government’s request for extension, Glass said the issue is very narrow and should not take long for Camacho to consider and decide. However, Glass said, should the government file a notice of appeal, it is likely that jurisdiction will become an issue. The prosecutor said it seems provident to provide Camacho with more time to consider and make a ruling, rather than rush to an appeal.

He said there is also an obvious fact that should Camacho grant the government’s request and award restitution to Agulto, it would avert the need for an appeal.

Currently, the notice of appeal would be due by April 29, 2020. A 30-day extension would give the parties until May 29, 2020, to file a notice of appeal.

In the government’s motion for reconsideration, Glass asserted that Camacho should amend his judgment to include the $1,866 bill from CHCC and DFEMS to be paid to Agulto. Glass said there is no question that Agulto is the direct victim in this case and to deny his estate recovery for these bills would be clear error and manifest injustice.

In Smith’s opposition to the motion for reconsideration, assistant public defender Jean Pierre Nogues said that Agulto is not entitled to restitution for his hospital bills because he is dead and cannot pay any bills himself.

According to court records, after midnight on Aug. 19, 2018, Smith, who was driving north in Puerto Rico, hit Agulto as the latter was walking in the middle of the street. Smith fled the scene after the accident. Agulto died as a result of his injuries.

Later that day, Smith voluntarily surrendered to the police.

On Jan. 30, 2019, Smith pleaded guilty to the charges of leaving an accident scene and reckless driving. He was sentenced to five years and six months in prison, with the last six months suspended. Smith was ordered to pay restitution to Agulto’s family. The parties disagreed as to how much was owed in restitution and to whom.

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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