Prosecutor says he allowed Park’s call to Atalig’s proposed witness


The lead prosecutor in the corruption case against Rota Mayor M. Atalig and his girlfriend, Evelyn Atalig, in federal court has stated that he agreed with Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent Haejun Park’s proposal to call the defense’s proposed expert witness.

In his declaration filed in court, assistant U.S. attorney Eric O’Malley said the purpose of Park’s call was to ascertain information that had not been provided in the defense’s last-minute motion to add Dr. Gregory Vecchi as a witness.

Vecchi is a former special agent with the Office of the Inspector General.

O’Malley’s declaration was filed in support of the U.S. government’s opposition to the Ataligs’ motion to sanction Park for misconduct.

O’Malley said the purpose of the call was specifically to determine whether Vecchi had or had not been formally retained and whether he had already performed work for the Ataligs.

“The purpose of the call was not to dissuade Dr. Vecchi from engaging with the defense, but the information sought was to inform my approach to the hearing on the matter,” he said.

At that time, the prosecutor said, the hearing was less than a day and half away, and was to start an hour before jury selection began.

O’Malley said he did not hear much of the call, as Park used his mobile phone and had stepped to the corner of the room, while he (O’Malley) continued working with Office of the Public Auditor investigator Travis Hurst.

He said did hear Park identify himself as the investigating agent involved in the case, after he (Park) and Vecchi had briefly spoken of their time together in Iraq, and about the two’s mutual cigar appreciation.

O’Malley said that Park told him after the call that Vecchi had told him he had not been formally hired, knew very little about the matter, and was not sure what was expected of him.

O’Malley said that, according to Park when told that the trial was set to start in two days, Vecchi stated in effect that there was no way he (Vecchi) would be able to perform his work that quickly.

The prosecutor said he then asked whether Park thought Vecchi—based on their shared experience—would say that Park’s conduct in Iraq was professional. He said Park replied that he believed Vecchi would say that he (Park) was in fact “a professional.”

O’Malley said the purpose of him informing the defense was not to dissuade them from employing Vecchi as an expert.

Indeed, O’Malley said, he had briefly considered dropping his objection to Vecchi’s testimony because he felt (at least at the time) that it was likely he would testify favorably about his prior work experience with Park.

However, O’Malley said, ultimately he decided to maintain his objection because he believes it would be a waste of taxpayer money, would likely cause even more delays in the trial, and would produce only irrelevant information and/or confuse the jury.

Park also issued a declaration in support of the U.S. government’s opposition to the Ataligs’ motion to impose sanctions. He denied that he made statements to dissuade Vecchi from testifying on behalf of the Ataligs’ defense.

Park also stated he made no reference as to the strength of the U.S. government’s case against Efraim Atalig.

In their motion to impose sanctions, Efraim Atalig and Evelyn Atalig, through their counsels, David G. Banes and Steven P. Pixley, accused Park of witness tampering.

The Ataligs filed the joint motion to add Vecchi as an expert witness last March 6. Banes and Pixley said they intend to call Vecchi as a witness regarding interviewing techniques and reporting involved in a criminal investigation.

Banes and Pixley said that, in Park’s call to Vecchi, Park gave Vecchi the impression that the prosecution has a strong case and made negative remarks about the defense investigator, who is a former FBI special agent.

The charges against Efraim and Evelyn Atalig involve at least eight trips taken by the couple at different times in 2018 to Guam, Palau, the U.S. mainland, South Korea, and Saipan.

The Ataligs are being charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft from program receiving federal funds, wire fraud, and theft from program receiving federal funds. Both are also charged separately with false statement.

Last Monday, U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona ordered the postponement of the jury trial due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Manglona vacated the jury trial scheduled last Wednesday and set a status conference for April 29 at 1:30pm.

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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