Ogumoro takes witness stand

Denies ordering arrest of 2 OPA investigators, stopping FBI agent

Former Department of Public Safety deputy commissioner Ambrosio T. Ogumoro yesterday took the witness stand in Superior Court in which he denied directing a police officer to arrest two Office of the Public Auditor investigators if they would serve penal summons to then-Attorney General Edward Buckingham.

After Ogumoro’s testimony, attorney Edward C. Arriola, counsel for Ogumoro, did not call any witness and informed the court that the defense rests.

Special prosecutor George Hasselback, counsel for the government, called back police detective Elias Q. Saralu as a rebuttal witness.

The trial of Ogumoro will resume today, Friday at 8:30am, with jury instructions and closing arguments. The defendant is facing 11 charges for his alleged role in shielding Buckingham from being served with penal summons.

In his testimony, Ogumoro said that, on Aug. 3 and 4, 2012, he was the acting commissioner of DPS.

The defendant denied he organized a “protective detail service” for Buckingham on Aug. 3 and 4, 2012. He also denied he called any officer from the Commonwealth Ports Authority on that period.

Ogumoro testified that the first time he heard about penal summons issued against Buckingham was when then-KSPN News reporter Tina Sablan asked him about the summons at the Francisco C. Ada-Saipan International Airport in the early morning of Aug. 4, 2012.

Ogumoro also testified that he heard the penal summons at the VIP lounge of the airport when the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents came to serve it to Buckingham.

As to Hasselback’s question as to when he actually first learned about the penal summons, Ogumoro explained that when Tina Sablan asked about the summons, it was hearsay because he did not see it.

Ogumoro said he first saw the summons when FBI special agent Haejun Park showed it to him at the VIP lounge area.

The defendant testified that the only reason for escorting Buckingham to the airport was to escort “an old, sick man” and to keep the news media away.

Ogumoro denied that he threatened to arrest OPA investigators who wanted to serve summons to Buckingham.

Officer Juan Mendiola, then-shift supervisor, testified on Wednesday that Ogumoro told him to tell OPA investigators to back off from serving summons to Buckingham or they would be arrested.

“I believe he [Mendiola] did not hear me clearly,” Ogumoro said.

On Arriola’s question why he stopped FBI special agent Park at the VIP lounge, Ogumoro replied that he did not stop agent Park.

Hasselback asked Ogumoro if he is familiar with the meaning of an “executive order.”

Ogumoro replied, “what executive order?”

Hasselback did not ask further questions.

Park testified on Wednesday that Ogumoro, who walked toward him and another FBI special agent when they entered the VIP lounge, told him that he was under an executive order to escort Buckingham and his wife to the plane.

Hasselback then called detective Saralu as rebuttal witness.

Saralu said he and Ogumoro had a phone conversation at about 8:30pm to 9pm on Aug. 3, 2012.

Saralu said during their conversation, he mentioned to Ogumoro about the penal summons for Buckingham because Ogumoro asked why he was investigating police officer Alex Sakisat.

Saralu said he told Ogumoro he was not investigating Sakisat but it was Police Officer Peter Camacho who asked what was Sakisat doing at Aquarius Beach Tower Hotel, where Buckingham was staying.

Saralu said Ogumoro asked who is Peter Camacho.

Saralu said he told Ogumoro that Camacho was trying to serve summons to Buckingham.

Saralu said he is sure that Camacho was telling him about summons for Buckingham.

Saralu said he mentioned to Ogumoro that OPA investigators were trying to serve summons to Buckingham.

On Wednesday, Mendiola testified that Ogumoro told him to pull out the officers assisting OPA investigators and that if not, OPA investigators would be arrested.

Police officers were trying to assist in serving the summons to Buckingham after then-OPA investigator Juanette David-Atalig requested assistance from her police officer brother.

Mendiola said he called Camacho to relay Ogumoro’s instruction that if then-OPA investigator David-Atalig not stop the operation to serve summons to Buckingham, she will be arrested.

After midnight, Mendiola said Ogumoro called him again, requesting to send two police officers to DPS Central at 3:15am on Aug. 4, 2012.

Mendiola said at DPS Central, a police officer told him that the two officers were instead sent to the parking lot of KFC Fried Chicken in Chalan Kanoa.

On Wednesday, Camacho testified that he was assigned at patrol at that time and assisted OPA investigators David-Atalig and Santos in their attempt to serve the summons to Buckingham.

Camacho said it was Mendiola who dispatched him to Aquarius Hotel to assist OPA investigators.

At Aquarius Hotel, Camacho said, David-Atalig asked him to assist them in serving the summons to Buckingham because they had a hard time doing so.

Camacho said he called for additional officers and three officers were sent to Aquarius Hotel.

He said at Aquarius Hotel he learned from OPA that it was penal summons for Buckingham and not an arrest warrant.

Camacho said later he followed Buckingham’s car upon request by Santos because it was driven by off-duty officer Alex Sakisat.

He said Mendiola later called him and instructed him to meet with Santos and David-Atalig and tell them to cease the operation or they will be arrested.

Camacho said he was surprised with Mendiola’s instruction because they were there at Aquarius Hotel to assist OPA investigators and now they were told to arrest them.

Camacho said Mendiola stated that the instruction was coming from the “top” or Ogumoro, who was then the acting commissioner.

Camacho said he met with David-Atalig and Santos at the airport and told them about the instruction to arrest them if they would not stop serving the summons to Buckingham.

Camacho said he apologized to David-Atalig and Santos that he could not assist them.

That night, Camacho said, then-governor Benigno R. Fitial called him and asked him what he’s doing at Aquarius Hotel.

Camacho said he told Fitial that he was just following instructions from Mendiola.

He said Fitial stated that he would take care of this matter.

In his testimony on Wednesday, Saralu said he received a call from Camacho, who asked what was Sakisat doing at Aquarius Hotel.

Saralu said Sakisat was one of his officers at that time.

Saralu said after his inquiry, he later told Camacho that Sakisat was a family friend of Buckingham and he was there to return Buckingham’s rental car.

Saralu said Ogumoro called him, telling him that Fitial was mad at him for investigating Sakisat.

Saralu said he was not investigating Sakisat, but that it was Camacho who called and asked about Sakisat.

He said Ogumoro called him again and asked him to call Fitial on the phone.

Saralu said he was nervous in calling Fitial.

Saralu said Fitial asked why he was investigating Sakisat and asked him who authorized him to do that.

Saralu said after he explained what happened, Fitial told him to leave Sakisat alone and asked him to tell Camacho to call him.

Saralu said he called Ogumoro telling him that he already called Fitial.

Saralu said he received missed calls from Ogumoro at 3am on Aug. 4, 2012.

Saralu said he was worried because he did not answer Ogumoro’s calls.

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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