OAG grants ‘use immunity’ to four of Atalig’s 7 co-defendants in NMI case


The Office of the Attorney General has agreed to grant “use immunity” to four of seven co-defendants of Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig in the Superior Court case.

As this developed, assistant U.S. attorney Eric O’Malley, counsel for the U.S. government, informed the U.S. District Court for the NMI yesterday that he is working on extending “use immunity” to Atalig’s seven co-defendants in Superior Court who are not indicted in federal court.

O’Malley said it is unclear, however, whether this requires approval from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Enforcement Operations and, if so, whether it will be approved.

O’Malley also stated that his research suggests that immunity granted by the CNMI prosecution would bind the U.S. government.

Chief prosecutor John Bradley told Saipan Tribune yesterday that “use immunity” refers to protection given the witness from having their testimony used against them.

“Witness can still be prosecuted, just with evidence other than their testimony. Witness also can still be prosecuted for perjury if a witness lies during testimony,” Bradley said.

Transactional immunity, on the other hand, protects the witness from being prosecuted for a particular crime.

The chief prosecutor said Atalig’s four witnesses were offered “use immunity” and not transactional immunity.

Bradley said that, once the Superior Court approves the “use immunity” offer, witnesses can’t refuse to testify by invoking their constitutional privilege against self-incrimination.

The four co-defendants are Dean Manglona, Eusebio Manglona, Josepha Manglona, and Dennis Mendiola. They have not resolved their cases.

Last Friday, assistant attorney general Erin Toolan, counsel for the CNMI government, informed the Superior Court that they agree to grant “use immunity” to the four co-defendants “in the interest of justice and to avoid further delay of both the federal and CNMI trials.

The bench trial in the Superior Court case is currently set for March 30, while the jury trial in the U.S. District Court case is set for March 10.

In the Superior Court case, three other co-defendants—Vanessa Charfauros, Magdalena Mesngon, and Dexter Apatang—have already disposed of their cases by plea agreement.

Toolan said that, as a term of their agreements, the three agreed to cooperate with the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the U.S. Attorney and testify in both local and federal trials.

Toolan said that, per the agreements, the three defendants were granted immunity from the CNMI government related to this incident.

Toolan was in the District Court yesterday to observe the hearing on Mayor Atalig’s motion to continue the trial of his case until the related criminal case pending before the Superior Court is resolved as to his seven co-defendants.

David G. Banes, counsel for Mayor Atalig, informed the court that, with O’Malley stating his intent to grant “use immunity” before the CNMI case is resolved, it may render their motion for continuance unnecessary.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona will hold a pre-trial hearing tomorrow, Wednesday, at 1:30pm.

In the federal court case, the charges against Efraim and Evelyn Atalig involve at least eight trips taken by the couple at different times in 2018 to Guam, Palau, the U.S. mainland, South Korea, and Saipan.

The Ataligs are being charged jointly with wire fraud, theft concerning programs involving federal funds, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and federal funds theft.

In the Superior Court case, the OAG charged Mayor Atalig and the seven co-defendants with misconduct in public office.

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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