The U.S. District Court for the NMI re-scheduled again yesterday the status conference in the case against Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig.
The hearing had been previously set for today, Thursday. The new schedule is Tuesday, Sept. 18, at 9am, before U.S. District Court for the NMI Magistrate Judge Heather L. Kennedy. The order did not indicate the reason behind the postponement.
The original date of the status conference was last Tuesday afternoon. But the hearing did not push through as Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona re-scheduled the status conference to today, Thursday, at 10am.
Saipan Tribune learned that the court issued the re-scheduling orders because of Typhoon Mangkhut that battered Rota on Monday.
Atalig is currently on Rota. He is allowed to appear at the status conference via telephone. It is not clear yet if he has retained Bruce Berline as his counsel.
The court earlier appointed Berline as temporary counsel for the mayor. Manglona, however, found Atalig not eligible for a court-appointed counsel.
Atalig pleaded not guilty to wire fraud.
The indictment alleged that Atalig arranged a government-funded trip from Rota to Guam for himself and 12 others on a false claim that he was going to check for surplus equipment at the Naval Base in Guam. Atalig allegedly actually went to Guam to participate in a political rally of the Republican Party last June 23 in Mangilao.
The Office of the Attorney General filed a separate criminal case against Atalig and seven other Rota municipal officials, each with theft and misconduct in public office arising from the same political rally. The defendants’ arraignment in the Superior Court case is Sept. 28.