The defense in the criminal case against Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has filed a motion to dismiss the case in its entirety, claiming selective and vindictive prosecution.
Torres, through his lawyers, Viola Alepuyo and Matthew Holley, filed a motion with Superior Court judge pro tem Alberto Tolentino yesterday, seeking the dismissal of the criminal case against him and alleging that the Office of the Attorney General is selectively and vindictively prosecuting him.
According to the motion for dismissal, Torres’ lawyers claim that the prosecution is being selective because the OAG has chosen not to prosecute similarly situated individuals.
“Since the civil statute on travel, Public Law 15-86, was enacted in September 2007, there has been no Commonwealth elected official, employee, or board member ever charged civilly or criminally for violating this provision. The OAG did not charge the numerous government officials, [including Torres’] opponent Lt. Gov. Arnold Palacios, AG Ed Manibusan, former attorney general J.P. San Nicolas, to name a few, who also flew on premium class travel. The OAG has chosen not to pursue any claims against a single other similarly situated government official relating to premium class travel. There has been preferential treatment between Gov. Torres and other officials,” the defense stated.
In addition, Torres’ lawyers argue that the information filed against Torres in itself provides evidence of selective prosecution.
“The selective nature of Gov. Torres’ prosecution is particularly evident in that he is charged with ‘causing premium class travel.’ Gov. Torres did not cause his premium class travel. His TAs were submitted, and approved by the secretary of Finance and the lieutenant governor and purchased by a travel agent. By the OAG’s theory, any one of the individuals who participated in ‘causing’ premium class travel is in violation of 1 CMC 7407(f). Yet Gov. Torres stands alone in this prosecution while numerous individuals go uncharged,” the motion states.
Torres’ lawyers also claim that Torres was charged not because of any involvement in criminal conduct, but rather because of the political climate and the OAG’s desire to punish him for criticizing some members of the House of Representatives’ pursuit of the premium class travel.
“The information constitutes selective prosecution and must be dismissed,” the motion said.
The lawyers also argued that the information filed against Torres was ultimately vindictively designed to prevent the defendant from running in the upcoming election.
“This is vindictively designed to prevent the governor from running [for] office in this election and undermine his free speech. The OAG significantly departed from its manual and travel policy, the OAG’s advice to the Travel Committee, and its legal opinion to Gov. Torres relating to the legislative subpoena. The timing of the information, by itself, can amount to vindictive prosecution,” the lawyers said.
“The AG has engaged in dilatory tactics, gamesmanship, and has been politically influenced in his prosecutorial powers—all amounting to vindictive prosecution. Accordingly, this case must be dismissed,” the lawyers added.
After making their arguments, Torres’ lawyers also proposed an alternative to dismissal—for the court to grant his request for discovery into the decision to charge him.
The discovery that Torres is requesting includes reasons for the OAG’s prosecutorial decisions, including whether it initially decided not to prosecute, and the reasons for deciding to prosecute this case over four years after the initial premium class travel in 2018; any communication between any member of the OAG, and any member of the House of Representatives relating to the investigation that resulted in the criminal charges against him; and names of other individuals investigated for premium class travel; among other things.