By FERDIE DE LA TORRE
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has allowed the eight witnesses of Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig to testify via videoconference at his trial that will start today, Tuesday.
Manglona gave the go-ahead to the remote testimony of the witnesses last Friday. The eight are Elizabeth Atalig, Erma T. Calvo, Maryann Songsong, Michelle Cruz, Eusebio M. Manglona, Heather Zona, Zita Pangelinan, and Angel Sablan.
The trial of Efraim Atalig and his girlfriend, Evelyn Atalig, will proceed today at 10am at the new U.S. Courthouse in Gualo Rai.
David G. Banes, counsel for Efraim Atalig, said the eight witnesses are believed to be currently outside the CNMI.
In the motion seeking permission for remote testimony, Banes said at least Elizabeth Atalig has successfully gone through VTC testing with the court’s staff. Banes said their office staff is in the process of checking with the other witnesses regarding their ability to set up with the VTC application on their phones, and with the Guam District Court regarding conducting VTC at its facility for witnesses in Guam.
The lawyer said that current CNMI quarantine measure generally requires all incoming person to be quarantined for a certain period of time after entering the CNMI. “This means that, if the above individuals were to testify in person, they would have to fly to Saipan days before the date they are expected to testify to under the quarantine procedure,” he said.
Banes said being aboard a flight is a potential risk for contracting COVID-19, and if those witnesses contract COVID-19 during their flights, the quarantine period may be even longer, Banes said.
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.
MD: U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona on Friday granted Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig’s renewed motion for remote testimony of eight witnesses at trial.
KW: David G. Banes, Mayor Efraim M. Atalig, Evelyn Atalig, witnesses, trial.