Request to set aside man’s 188-month prison term denied


U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has denied a motion to set aside her imprisonment sentence of 15 years and eight months against a man who pleaded guilty for his role in shipping methamphetamine or “ice” worth $850,000 from China to Saipan.

Manglona also denied Xi Huang’s request for the court to hold an evidentiary hearing on his motion to vacate or set aside the sentence or require the U.S. government to file a responsive brief.

The judge certified that any appeal is frivolous and would not be taken in good faith.

Manglona said Huang’s claim that he was ignorant of the true maximum penalty is belied by the record.

Thus, Manglona said, Huang is not entitled to relief on his claim that he was coerced to enter into a plea agreement.

Robert T. Torres served as Huang’s lawyer.

Manglona said that nowhere in the petition or affidavit does Huang state that if he had known the maximum penalty was a 20-year sentence, then he would have gone to trial and rejected the plea deal.

At most, the judge pointed out, Huang states it is “not clear” whether he would have chosen to go to trial had he known the maximum sentence was 20 years.

Thus, Manglona said, Huang is not entitled to relief on his claim that he was not informed about the consequence of entering an open plea.

Manglona said she sentenced petitioner to 188 months, which is within the sentencing guidelines range for an offense level of 35.

Also, Manglona said, Huang cannot claim that his lawyer failed to object to the stiff sentence he got for being a leader in the drug shipment scheme.

Manglona also determined that Huang is not entitled to relief on his claim that his appellate counsel was ineffective.

Stephen Nutting served as appellate counsel for Huang.

Manglona said the record clearly demonstrates that Huang is not entitled to relief.

A routine Customs inspection at the seaport of Saipan of a 40-foot container from China resulted in the discovery of the 4.9 lbs. of “ice” hidden in three plastic bags in one of the nine 5-gallon paint containers on Dec. 2, 2015.

Joint federal and local enforcers investigated the shipment, resulting in the arrest of Huang and two co-defendants, Shicheng Cai and Zhaopeng Chen, for conspiracy to distribute “ice.”

In March 2016, Huang, who was tagged as the leader of the group, pleaded guilty to an indictment charging him with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. He was sentenced in August 2016.

After he was sentenced, Huang hired new appellate counsel and filed a notice of appeal. Following this filing, the parties entered into a stipulation to dismiss the appeal.

Huang then sought relief from his sentence, claiming ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel.

Cai pleaded guilty.

Chen went to trial and was found guilty.

Authorities valued the seized “ice” at $850,00 at that time, making it the second largest illegal drug haul in CNMI history.

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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