OAG: Ex-Labor chief leased 4 cars; no indication that govt leased them

OPD says govt shows stack of short-term car rental agreements, not leases

In the span of years she served as CNMI Labor secretary, Edith Eleanor DeLeon Guerrero used government funds to lease four vehicles and that those vehicles bore no indication that the government leased them, according to the Office of the Attorney General.

Neither the vehicles’ front doors nor license plates indicated any government affiliation—and the windows were tinted, said assistant attorney general Jonathan Robert Glass Jr.

DeLeon Guerrero’s use of an unmarked government vehicle with tinted windows and civilian plates “violated three provisions of the Commonwealth Code, for which she is now being prosecuted,” said Glass in a brief filed Tuesday to oppose her motion to dismiss the traffic case filed against her.

In her reply yesterday, DeLeon Guerrero, through assistant public defender Heather M. Zona, asserted that the case should be dismissed because the government will not be able to prove that the vehicle or vehicles involved were “government vehicles.”

Zona said that, contrary to its representations, the government has provided a stack of short-term car rental agreements, not leases.

“The government cannot convert a short-term rental agreement into a lease simply by calling it a lease,” Zona said.

Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho heard the motion yesterday morning and placed the matter under advisement.

The bench trial will start on Wednesday, May 9, at 9am at the U.S. District courthouse.

In the government’s opposition to dismiss the case, Glass described as absurd DeLeon Guerrero’s claim that a vehicle leased using government funds for a government employee using government procurement policies is “not” a government vehicle.

The prosecutor also asserted that the government has provided DeLeon Guerrero with enough notice of the charges against her in both the information and discovery provided.

Glass said her unwillingness to review the discovery, which consists in part of lease agreements with Islander Rent-A-Car, does not render the government’s notice to her constitutionally deficient.

He said even if the Superior Court agrees with defendant that the information should be more specific, the remedy would be to amend the information or provide a bill of particulars—not dismissal.

The prosecutor said DeLeon Guerrero’s requests to delay the case cannot count against the government as a violation of her right to a speedy trial.

He said DeLeon Guerrero—who first raised the issue of speedy trial only weeks ago for the first time and failed to show any prejudice—can either have her requested delay or a prompt trial.

“But not both. She cannot have her cake and eat it too,” Glass said.

Glass said no part of the information, which essentially charges the infractions contained within the original citation, is barred by the statute of limitations.

Indeed, he said, the statute of limitations does not even apply to traffic offenses.

DeLeon Guerrero is charged with three infractions—no tinting on a government vehicle, requiring that government vehicles be marked on their front doors, and requiring government vehicles to bear government license plates.

Glass said the government requests that the court adopt an interpretation of “government vehicle” that includes government leases.

He said because the vehicles were leased by the government, they are “government vehicles” for purposes of the law.

The prosecutor said DeLeon Guerrero’s operation of those vehicles—which were tinted and lacked government plates or identification—was therefore unlawful.

However, Glass said, even if the court were to reject the government’s request, this case would still be ripe for trial because defendant used one of the vehicles for over 12 months.

DeLeon Guerrero wants the court to dismiss the charges. In the alternative, she moved for the dismissal as time-barred of count III of the information that charged her with restriction upon use of government vehicle by using or driving such vehicle that did not bear government license plates.

Zona argued that the information violates DeLeon Guerrero’s due process rights guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Zona asserted that the government lacks sufficient evidence and that defendant’s right to a speedy trial as guaranteed by the U.S. and the CNMI Constitutions has been violated.

Glass stated in the information that on Dec. 8, 2013 to Oct. 11, 2016, Deleon Guerrero used a government motor vehicle that had tinted windows, that was not clearly marked as such on both front doors, and did not bear government license plates.

Originally, OAG filed in court only a traffic citation that contains the same charges against the former Labor secretary.

DeLeon Guerrero pleaded not guilty. She said it’s a rental car and obviously not government property.

According to court documents, Police Officer Jesus Santos issued the traffic citation against DeLeon Guerrero on Oct. 16, 2016, at 3:39pm in the parking lot of the Happiness Chinese Restaurant in western Garapan.

DeLeon Guerrero was the driver of a red five-door Toyota car with license plate ACU-788. The car was registered at that time to Marfega Trading Co. Inc.

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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