The federal court granted Monday the request of a woman who has been sentenced to three months in prison for harboring an illegal alien child to remain free while she awaits the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on her appeal.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona granted Lili Zhang Tydingco’s request, saying she is not a flight risk, is not a danger to anyone, and that her appeal is not intended to delay the case.
Manglona also stayed or suspended Tydingco’s sentence.
The judge said that Tydingco is released pending the resolution of her appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit under the same terms and conditions set last Dec. 29, 2015.
If the Ninth Circuit affirms Tydingco’s conviction and the mandate issues, Manglona said she must surrender to the Bureau of Prisons as instructed by the U.S. Marshals.
In her request for continued release, Tydingco, through counsel Bruce Berline, said she 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.
Last June 29, Tydingco filed with the federal court a notice of appeal of her conviction and her sentencing to the Ninth Circuit.
In her order Monday granting the request, Manglona said she finds by clear and convincing evidence that Tydingco is not a flight risk, that she is not facing a lengthy sentence that would motivate her to flee.
The judge said if detained pending appeal, Tydingco would likely finish serving her 90-day prison sentence before the Ninth Circuit decides the appeal.
She noted that Tydingco’s conviction is not for a violent crime and she has no other criminal history.
Tydingco has been out of custody since her initial court appearance on Dec. 29, 2015. The U.S. Probation Office reports that she has been compliant with the conditions of her release. Therefore, Manglona said, Tydingco has also demonstrated that she is not a danger to anyone in the community.
Furthermore, Manglona noted that the defendant’s appeal raises a substantial question of law, which if the Ninth Circuit finds in Tydingco’s favor, would likely result in reversal or an order for a new trial.
Tydingco was convicted of harboring an illegal alien.
The judge said there is a split in the circuit courts whether the crime of harboring an illegal alien requires proof of conduct meant to prevent government authorities from detecting the alien’s unlawful presence. Manglona said a split of opinion in the circuit courts as to the elements of the crime of harboring an illegal alien is a substantial question of law. “A decision in favor of Tydingco by the Ninth Circuit would likely result in reversal,” she said.
Berline said the defendant has lived on Saipan for about two decades and has been nearly continuously employed for that time. She is married to a U.S. citizen and local resident of Saipan. Berline said the defendant has three young children with her husband and she is the primary breadwinner for the family and caretaker for the children as well as her mother-in-law.
Last June 17, Manglona sentenced Tydingco to 90 days in prison and three years of supervised release after completing the prison term. Upon her release, she is to be deported. Tydingco was ordered to pay a $500 fine and $100 in special assessment fee.
Manglona said Tydingco remains released but is ordered to self-surrender to the U.S. Marshal Service when notified.
On Sept. 9, 2019, a federal jury reached a unanimous guilty verdict against Tydingco for 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 is the alleged harbored illegal alien.
During the first trial in June 2016, a jury found Lili Tydingco guilty of one count of harboring an alien and her husband, 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’ imprisonment, with credit for time served. The Tydingcos appealed to the Ninth Circuit. 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, dropped the case against Francisco Tydingco.