Prosecutor: Motorist no recollection of cop brutality

A motorist who filed a police brutality lawsuit against a police officer and a former police officer failed to recall what happened when he was interviewed a day after his car crashed on the fence of a school, according to the Office of the Attorney General.

Assistant attorney general Charles E. Brasington, counsel for police officer Jerome Reyes and former police officer Regino Celis, disclosed that when interviewed by two other police officers the day after the accident, Alejandro L. Norita stated that he had blacked out.

Citing a police investigative report, Brasington said Norita told the two officers who interviewed him of having no recollection of the previous night.

“As [Norita] stated he had no recollection of that night’s events, we are left to wonder as to the source of [his] allegations,” said Brasington in a motion to dismiss Reyes and Celis from Norita’s lawsuit.

The OAG asserts that Reyes and Celis are entitled to qualified immunity and that Norita’s complaint fail to state a claim.

Norita is reportedly now paralyzed from the neck down as a result of the incident. He alleged that Reyes and Celis used excessive force in arresting him after his car crashed on the fence of the Oleai Elementary School on the evening of June 1, 2010.

Norita is suing the CNMI government, Reyes, Celis, and 10 unnamed co-defendants for assault and battery, emotional distress, violation of civil rights, negligence, unjust enrichment, and unlawful conversion.

Norita is demanding at least $100,000 in damages. His lawyer is David G. Banes.

In a motion to dismiss filed with the U.S. District Court for the NMI on Monday, Brasington said it is clear from the facts alleged and from the police report that Reyes and Celis not only had probable cause to arrest Norita but were authorized to remove him from his vehicle.

Brasington said that Celis, who was off duty at the time, was driving with his family near Joeten Dandan around 10pm on June 1, 2010, when a car with a license plate JAYJAY quickly switched from the inner westbound lane to the outer westbound lane. Celis claims that the car nearly sideswiped his car.

Shortly after, Reyes, who was driving in the opposite direction, turned around and activated the signal of his police cruiser and began pursuing Norita’s vehicle. Reyes reported that he pursued the vehicle because it was traveling at high speed with its headlights off.

Brasington said the vehicle initially refused to stop, but ultimately pulled over at the CUC Waterloo.

Reyes and Celis pulled over and walked toward Norita’s car but the vehicle then sped off, prompting the officers to return to their vehicles and continue the pursuit.

Brasington said that in an attempt to evade police, Norita’s vehicle made an abrupt U-turn and entered a gravel road where he ultimately lost control of the car and crashed into the fence of Oleai Elementary School. The car also hit a high voltage electrical panel pole, causing the vehicle to spin 180 degrees.

Brasington said that, according to Celis, Norita refused to surrender peacefully and held on to an object that turned out to be a stereo.

Fearing for their safety, Brasington said that Celis and Reyes removed Norita from the car and handcuffed him to make sure he could not get hold of any weapon. Reyes and Celis made Norita sit upright as they tended to his wounds. The officers allegedly detected the odor of alcohol from Norita’s breath.

Reyes and Celis waited until medics and police backup arrived.

“Considering the totality of this circumstances, Officers Reyes and Celis acted objectively reasonable at the time of the accident by securing [Norita],” the lawyer added.

By Ferdie de la Torre

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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