Sexual abuse case dismissed; judge warns 2 prosecutors

Posted on Nov 12 2011
By Ferdie de la Torre

Superior Court associate judge Kenneth L. Govendo has dismissed without prejudice a sexual abuse case filed against a 52-year-old man after the prosecution failed to send a swab out for analysis and lacked a doctor to testify.

Govendo granted the Office of the Attorney General’s motion to dismiss without prejudice the criminal case against Enrico Santos. Dismissal without prejudice means the prosecution can re-open the case.

Govendo, however, found the two reasons cited by the prosecution as “lacking in substance.” He warned assistant attorneys general Shelli Neal and Tiberius Mocanu of sanctions if it happens again. He said the two government lawyers have been lax in preparing for the case and breached their duty.

Court records show that Santos’ trial was to begin on Monday, Nov. 14, 2011.

Last Tuesday, Nov. 8, the OAG asked the court for continuance, saying that the evidence taken from the alleged victim via swab had not been sent out for analysis and that the doctor who treated the victim was no longer on island. The OAG said it was necessary to have another physician testify.

Santos’ lawyer objected to a continuance, saying they were ready to go to trial.

After meeting with the prosecution and defense in his office, Govendo denied the government’s motion for a continuance.

On Wednesday, Nov. 9, the OAG filed its motion to dismiss without prejudice.

In an order issued Wednesday, Govendo said that everyone living on Saipan should know that doctors, like assistant attorneys general, come and go.

“When a prosecutor gets a trial date, the first phone call should be to the doctor to make sure that the doctor will be on island or to line up an alternative,” Govendo said.

When a swab is taken, it should immediately be sent off-island for analysis, he said.

“Both of these things could have been done expeditiously,” he added.

Police started investigating the case in April after the mother of an 8-year-old girl reported the incident. The girl reportedly told police that Santos has been sexually abusing her since she was 3.

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