A woman who was sentenced to 90 days in prison for harboring an illegal alien child asked the federal court yesterday to allow her to remain free while awaiting a final decision on her appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Lili Zhang Tydingco, through counsel Bruce Berline, said she is not a flight risk, not a danger to the community, and that her appeal and this request are not for purposes of delay. Berline said Tydingco has and will present issues to the Ninth Circuit that are “substantial” in nature—fairly debatable—and that would require reversal if she prevails on either the issues presented.
Tydingco is currently out of custody pending notification by the U.S. Marshal Service that the Bureau of Prisons has designated a facility and that she is to report to begin serving her term of imprisonment.
Last June 29, Tydingco filed with the federal court a notice that she is appealing her conviction and sentence to the Ninth Circuit.
Berline said Tydingco has been at liberty for the entirety of this case—which has now spanned over four years. He said the defendant has lived on Saipan for approximately two decades and has been nearly continuously employed for that time. Tydingco is married to a U.S. citizen and local resident of Saipan. She has three young children with her husband and is the primary breadwinner for the family and caretaker for the children as well as her mother-in-law.
Tydingco challenges her conviction on several grounds. First, Berline said, the instructions to the jury at trial were improper. Specifically, Berline said, Tydingco objected to the final jury instruction for “harboring an illegal alien.”
Berline contends that the jury instruction does not adequately instruct the jury on the elements of the harboring and fails to instruct the jury on the requisite intent needed to convict Tydingco of harboring.
Last June 17, U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona sentenced Tydingco to 90 days in prison and three years of supervised release after completing the prison term. Immediately upon release from prison, Tydingco is supposed to report to an immigration official for deportation. Tydingco was ordered to pay a $500 fine and $100 in special assessment fee.
On Sept. 9, 2019, a federal jury unanimously convicted Tydingco of harboring an illegal alien, which carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment. The prosecution called six witnesses, including the then 15-year-old Chinese girl who was the alleged harbored illegal alien. The defense called two witnesses.
During the first trial in June 2016, the jury rendered a guilty verdict finding Tydingco guilty of one count of harboring an alien and her husband, Francisco Tydingco, guilty of aiding and abetting.
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.
A superseding indictment was subsequently filed against Lili Tydingco. The U.S. government, however, then moved to dismiss the case against Francisco Tydingco. The court granted the motion.