Motion to sanction Park under advisement
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has reset to Aug. 4, 2020 instead of July 7, 2020, the jury trial of Rota Mayor Efraim M. Atalig and his girlfriend, Evelyn Atalig.
At a motion hearing Wednesday that lasted about seven hours, Manglona granted the U.S. government’s unopposed request to reset the trial date as its key witness, investigator Travis Hurst from the Office of the Public Auditor, will be going off-island. Assistant U.S. attorney Eric S. O’Malley said that Hurst has been accepted into a three-week training program with the U.S. Secret Service beginning July 6, 2020. The Ataligs, through counsel, did not oppose resetting the trial date. The trial has already been reset several times for many reasons; the recent one being the COVID-19 pandemic.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Manglona also granted the Ataligs’ joint motion to amend witness list to add former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and federal criminal investigator Dr. Gregory Vecchi, who testified at the hearing via telephone as he is in the U.S. mainland.
David G. Banes, counsel for Efraim Atalig, said tht Vecchi is expected to testify that the investigation of this case exhibits confirmation bias against the Ataligs among the U.S. government’s investigators, primarily FBI special agent Haejun Park.
Banes said Vecchi is expected to testify that Park improperly influenced and threatened witnesses, and also failed to conform to accepted investigative standards and practices.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Manglona placed under advisement the Ataligs’ motion to sanction Park. Manglona said she will come up with a written order by June 2, 2020.
At the hearing, Banes called Vecchi, Hurst, and Park to the witness stand.
In their motion to impose sanctions, the Ataligs, through their counsel, alleged that Park had committed witness tampering and misconduct.
Park has denied that he tried to dissuade Vecchi from testifying on behalf of the Ataligs’ defense in the case.
The charges against Efraim and Evelyn Atalig involve at least eight trips taken by the couple at different times in 2018 to Guam, Palau, the U.S. mainland, South Korea, and Saipan.
The Ataligs are being charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft from program receiving federal funds, wire fraud, and theft from program receiving federal funds. Both are also charged separately with false statement.