OPD seeks interview tape of alleged rape victim  


The Office of the Public Defender wants the Superior Court to compel the Office of the Attorney General to produce recordings of interviews of a girl who was allegedly raped by a 43-year-old man.

Assistant public defender Heather M. Zona, counsel for Joseph Seman Epina, also asked the court to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine the existence and nature of any outstanding discovery.

Zona said the evidence and information are material to the defense and disclosure would be neither unreasonable not oppressive to the government.

The requested evidence and information, Zona said, will facilitate a fair, efficient, and just disposition of the charges against Epina.

The defense counsel said that, on March 16, 2016, Epina served a discovery request on the OAG to produce some documents, reports and tapes.

Zona said that at a recent evidentiary hearing concerning memory taint of the alleged victim, the girl testified she met with former assistant attorney general Betsy Weintraub on numerous occasions.

Zona said the alleged victim testified that on some of those occasions the interviews were recorded on Weintraub’s phone

She said until the girl’s recent testimony, such material had never been made known or available to the defense even though it was requested and this case has been pending since March 2016.

She said the defense only has been provided with two videotapes of interviews of the alleged victim, one of such tapes cuts off in the middle.

“None of the recordings from the telephone has been produced,” Zona said.

Zona added that, on Aug. 7, 2018—the second day of the evidentiary hearing concerning the girl’s tainted memory—the prosecution provided the defense with a report dated July 15, 2018 documenting an interview conducted by assistant attorney general Teri Tenorio on April 24, 2018.

She said no explanation was made as to why this information was not made available sooner.

Zona said the report reflects the girl repeatedly told the prosecution she did not remember the alleged events but then also changed her story substantially.

Zona said the timing of production of the report, as well as the prosecution’s failure to provide other recorded interviews, suggest the prosecution has not fully complied with its obligations.

The defense counsel said suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment.

Zona said if the government refuses to disclose any evidence or information ordered by the court, or if it has doubts as to the propriety of disclosure, the prosecution’s duty is to submit the questioned material to the court for review.

To date, she said, the government has provided two videotaped interviews of a former prosecutor interviewing the girl, as well as a videotape of another witness.

Zona said the defense maintains its request for any and all videotaped interviews with the girl.

She said these materials go to the credibility of the alleged victim, as well as the events alleged to have occurred.

She said the materials also are relevant to the extent they reflect the prosecution engaging in misconduct, such as suggesting to the girl that the prosecution will try to keep certain material from the defense, as is the case on one of the videotaped interviews provided.

Epina is facing charges of allegedly raping a then-12-year-old girl at her relative’s house on Saipan on March 12, 2016. The girl told police that it was not the first time that Epina sexually assaulted her.

The OAG charged Epina with sexual assault of a minor in the first degree, assault and battery, and disturbing the peace.

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

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