OPD: Defendant in sex abuse case was overcharged


The Office of the Public Defender says the case against Jeffry M. Fernandez, a 35-year-old man accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old girl, is yet another case where the government has overcharged a defendant in violation of his constitutional rights.

Assistant public defender Heather M. Zona, counsel for Fernandez, said the government claims Fernandez sexually penetrated the girl a single time and seeks to punish defendant for both sexually abusing the girl as well as sexually assaulting her as if she were of majority age. She speculated that the CNMI may have done this to avoid adequate investigation or to hedge its bets.

“This is improper and a violation of Mr. Fernandez’ right not to be placed in jeopardy twice for the same offense,” said Zona, in a motion to dismiss count II of the information charging him with sexual assault in the first degree.

Count 1 charged Fernandez with sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree.

Both counts arise out of a single alleged event which purportedly took place on June 8, 2016.

Zona said it simply makes no sense as count II is general while count 1 is specific, if they ever happened at all.

Zona said the court must dismiss the sexual assault charge in favor of the sexual abuse charge. She said the two counts are multiplicitous and violate defendant’s rights by placing him in jeopardy twice for the same offense.

Zona said there is no indication the Legislature intended for a defendant to be punished twice for a single alleged act.

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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