Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ lawyer has informed the CNMI Superior Court that they intend to file a motion to disqualify the Office of the Attorney General from this case and a motion to dismiss the criminal case the OAG filed against him entirely.
During an arraignment hearing yesterday in the criminal case filed by the OAG alleging 12 counts of misconduct in public office and theft against Torres, the governor, through his lawyer, Viola Alepuyo, pleaded not guilty before judge pro tempore Alberto Tolentino.
Aside from Alepuyo, Torres’ brother, attorney Victorino Torres, and Anthony Aguon was present to represent the governor, while Robert Glass appeared in behalf of the OAG.
Alepuyo gave the court an official oral notice of her client’s intent to file a motion to both disqualify the OAG from the case, and to dismiss the case entirely on May 2.
“Ralph Torres is innocent and therefore he enters a plea of not guilty. Also, we anticipate filing a motion to disqualify the Office of the Attorney General as well as a motion to dismiss. This is our notice to this court,” she said.
Alepuyo also asked that the court set an evidentiary hearing pursuant to her intent to file a motion to disqualify the OAG.
The court agreed to an evidentiary hearing on May 31.
“We anticipate having an evidentiary hearing that would be quite extensive so if we could request for the court to schedule the evidentiary hearing for on or about May 31. We anticipate the hearing to last at most, two days,” Alepuyo said.
Torres’ counsel also invoked her client’s right to a speedy trial, which the court granted, and in doing so scheduled a trial for July 5.
Alepuyo also informed the court that her client is still exploring the option of a jury trial that would consist of members from Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and the Northern Islands.
“We’re still exploring the issue regarding a jury trial at this point. I believe once the research has been done, once we review discovery and we’re able to make a proper assessment of the case, then we will be able to advise the court whether we would request for a jury trial or a bench trial,” she said.
“Usually when a jury trial is had in the Superior Court, it’s only a jury pool from Saipan. But in this case, because this is such an important case in the CNMI, we’re also exploring the possibility of requesting the court to have a jury pool available from Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and the Northern Islands,” she added. “I would also like to request that for all future hearings that my client’s attendance be waived until such time the court feels that he must be here such as trial.
Additional requests made by Torres’ counsel was for the court to waive Torres’ appearance for the proceedings until trial, which the court also granted.
Glass did not oppose any of Alepuyo’s notices to the court and stated that Torres is entitled to a jury trial since there are criminal charges filed against him. In the event those charges are dropped or amended, a bench trial would suffice.
Tolentino stated that he is honored to hear this matter and help the people of the Commonwealth resolve the conflict.
Members of the Republican Party of the CNMI, its board of directors, and members filled the courtroom and hallways in support of Torres.
A statement from CNMI GOP president Candace Celis said: “We have faith in the judicial system. We stand by Gov. Torres and his family and pray that equal protection under the law is applied fairly to all, regardless of party or creed.”
First lady Diann Torres was also present in court yesterday, as well as Torres’ brothers, and members of the governor’s Cabinet.