Suspect in ‘ice’ case not allowed to withdraw counsel


The federal court has denied the request of a suspect in a methamphetamine or “ice” distribution case to withdraw his counsel.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona made the decision Friday after Zhao Sheng Zeng indicated that he is now willing to accept David Banes as his counsel.

Manglona noted that no new counsel has entered his or her appearance to represent Zeng.

The judge, however, advised Zeng of his right to retain private counsel and that if he wishes to pay for Banes’ services, the attorney would know what to do with that.

In his motion to withdraw, Banes stated that for more than one month Zeng told him that his family has hired a new lawyer whom he has not met and whose name he does not know.

Banes said he repeatedly informed Zeng that no lawyer has contacted him saying he or she has been retained.

Zeng reportedly offered to hire Banes privately upon a certain condition, which Banes could not agree to, resulting in Zeng demanding that he withdraw as counsel.

Banes said it was Zeng’s request to file the motion to withdraw.

At the hearing, Manglona asked Zeng if he still wishes for another attorney to represent him. Zeng explained that he was not able to make phone calls at the Department of Corrections because he does not speak English and only those with phone cards can make calls. The defendant stated that since he is unable to make phone calls, he would like to keep Banes as his counsel.

Manglona advised Zeng that he or his family may hire a private attorney at any time, but at this time, there is no other attorney entering his or her appearance.

Manglona set Zeng’s sentencing for May 15 and remanded him into the custody of the U.S. Marshal.

Last Dec. 3, Manglona ordered Zeng to forfeit to the U.S. government $7,900 in the form of a personal money judgment as a result of his guilty plea to count one of the indictment.

Federal agents arrested Zeng last July 29 after an indictment was filed in federal court. The indictment charged him with one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and three counts of distribution of methamphetamine.

According to the indictment, from May 9, 2013, through June 19, 2013, Zeng conspired with others to distribute “ice.” Zeng also allegedly intentionally distributed “ice” on May 9, 16, and 19, 2013.

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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