At the request of the Office of the Attorney General, the case against a 45-year-old man accused of sexually abusing a minor has been dismissed with prejudice.
That means the government can no longer re-file the case against Joseph Seman Epina.
Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho also vacated the jury trial in the case that was scheduled for Dec. 16, 2019.
Epina was charged with sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree and disturbing the peace. He allegedly sexually abused a 12-year-old girl on Saipan on March 12, 2016.
In the government’s motion to dismiss, assistant attorney general Samantha Vickery said the prosecution believes its evidence is enough to convict Epina but a review of other factors supports the case’s dismissal.
Last February, Epina’s counsel, assistant public defender Heather M. Zona of the Office of the Public Defender, filed a motion that blamed the OAG for the “unwarranted delay” in the trial.
Zona filed a motion to dismiss the case for violation of Epina’s right to a speedy trial. Zona said Epina has been forced to wait nearly three years in jail for his case to be resolved.
Zona said the defendant has been married to his wife for 22 years and they have four daughters. She said Epina and his family have suffered greatly as a result of this case.
Zona asserted that a criminal defendant has a constitutional right to a speedy trial under both the CNMI and the U.S. constitutions.
When former prosecutor Elizabeth Weintraub left the OAG in 2017, the case was assigned to then-assistant attorney general Teri C. Tenorio. Tenorio also left the OAG last February.