Woman accused of harboring illegal alien pleads not guilty


A woman pleaded not guilty in federal court last Wednesday to a charge of harboring an illegal alien.

Lili Zhang Tydingco, through court-appointed counsel Bruce Berline, also asked the court to postpone the jury trial to September.

According to the minutes of the hearing, Berline asked to move the trial to a later date due to an ongoing exchange of discovery and to give him more time to prepare, among other reasons.

Assistant U.S. attorney Eric O’Malley, counsel for the U.S. government, did not object.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona moved the jury trial to Aug. 27, 2019, instead of July 9, 2019, but said she has postponed the trial thrice already and that this will be the final continuance.

Since Tydingco was pleading not guilty to a superseding indictment—which means the new charge replaces a previous indictment—Manglona told the prosecution to explain the particular difference in the charge from the original indictment.

O’Malley said he was standing in for assistant U.S. attorney Garth Backe, who is handling the case, and understands the charges are essentially the same. O’Malley said the issue at trial was a problem with one of the jury instructions.

After reviewing the superseding indictment, Manglona stated that additional element was added pursuant to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decision.

According to the superseding indictment, beginning Nov. 5, 2013 until Feb. 19, 2015, Tydingco concealed a child, who entered the CNMI and remained here in violation of the law.

A federal grand jury previously indicted Lili Tydingco and her husband, Francisco Muna Tydingco, for allegedly receiving money to harbor two illegal Chinese aliens, including a child they enrolled at a public school.

In June 2016, a federal court jury found Lili Tydingco guilty of one count of harboring an alien and Francisco Tydingco guilty of aiding and abetting the harboring.

In December 2016, Manglona sentenced Lili Tydingco to 10 months imprisonment with credit for time served. She sentenced Francisco Tydingco to 21 months of imprisonment, with credit for time served.

The Tydingcos appealed to the Ninth Circuit to reverse their conviction and vacate their sentences.

In 2018, the Ninth Circuit reversed the convictions and remanded the case to the District Court for a new trial.

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 ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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