Plea deal with cop found too lenient
Deeming the terms of a plea agreement to be too lenient, Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho rejected the plea deal offered by the CNMI government to a police officer who is charged with stealing snacks at a gas station in Susupe.
“The people of the CNMI deserve to have a safe community, and expect more from their law enforcement officers. There can be no justice without the appropriate punishment,” said Camacho in rejecting the plea agreement offered to Koji Maurice Taisacan.
Camacho said the terms of the proposed plea agreement fails to impose a careful and individualized sentence that takes into account Taisacan’s role as a police officer and his betrayal of public trust.
With the rejection, Taisacan’s bench trial started yesterday.
The Office of the Attorney General has charged Taisacan with one count of theft, which is punishable by up to one year in prison.
Under the plea deal, Taisacan would plead guilty to theft; the OAG would recommend a suspended sentence of one year in prison, one year of supervised probation, a $200 fine, $25 in court costs, and $120 in probation fee.
Taisacan will also be required to pay the Shell gas station $2.45 in restitution for the Starbucks drink that was never recovered. He will also complete 50 hours of community service.
Taisacan, through his counsel Joey P. San Nicolas, argued that the terms of the plea deal are sufficient. But Camacho found the argument unpersuasive, saying the defendant does not take into account that he allegedly committed the crime as a police officer.
In fact, Camacho noted, Taisacan is still currently employed as a police officer.
Camacho said that, although the amount of $2.45 is relatively low, the more serious issue is that Taisacan committed the offense while on-duty as a police officer. He said the plea deal offered in the case suggests that Taisacan will serve no jail time, “can simply pay off his community service, and a fine of $200.”
Camacho said if he were to accept this plea deal, it would send a message that police officers can simply steal while on duty, and if caught, there would be little or no consequences such as doing jail time, or community service.
Camacho said with the terms of this plea agreement, there is no deterrence effect on Taisacan or any general deterrence to other law enforcement officers.
“There are many law enforcement officers who serve proudly and with integrity. One officer arrested for theft and does not receive the appropriate punishment gives the public image that officers are above the law,” the judge pointed out.
According to the factual basis for the proposed plea deal, Taisacan stole two candy bars and a Starbucks drink with a value of less than $250 from the Shell gas station in Susupe on June 12, 2019.
Assistant attorney general J. Robert Glass Jr. is counsel for the CNMI government.