Inos Commutes Fitial's Sentence

July 5, 2015

As predicted, CNMI Governor Eloy Inos commuted the sentence of his buddy, disgraced ex-Governor Benigno Fitial.

No surprise. Both governors have been partners in crime for decades. From their work in Tan's sleazy garment factories that led to oppression of innocent foreign garment workers, to their unethical involvement with felon lobbyist Jack Abramoff, to numerous instances of cronyism, election fraud, and other schemes that repeatedly broke the public trust.

The governor stated:
“Our society is unique in that it is like any metropolitan city on the mainland. We are comprised of small islands and it is in our culture to be compassionate toward each other. 
It is also in our culture not to claim victory or take joy in the fall of our citizens. We are taught to not let the bad outweigh the good and to look at a person’s entire contribution to our society and not just a small piece.”
That has to be one of the most disingenuous statements ever to be uttered by a CNMI leader. "It is our culture to be compassionate to each other"?

Where was the compassion towards the legal, longterm foreign workers who built the CNMI, who paved the roads, constructed the buildings, nursed the sick, and are the backbone of the tourist industry? There was none. Fitial, Inos and other 'compassionate' Covenant Party leaders of the CNMI went into hate mode when the 2010 recommendation from the U.S. Department of Interior came out. The recommendation that called for the legal, long-term nonresidents to be granted a pathway to citizenship.

Were their anti-alien rallies compassionate? How about the ugly remarks? The sickening testimony? The xenophobic protests? Compassionate? Anything but.

 Is this compassionate governor penning commutations for those prisoners who committed far less vile crimes than Benigno Fitial? Of course not!  His selective 'compassion' is repulsive.

Corrupt Inos Orchestrates Pardon for His Pal Fitial

June 30, 2015

CNMI Governor Eloy Inos, best buddy of corrupt ex-governor Benigno Fitial, arranged for his pardon two days before his June 24, 2015 sentencing hearing.

It seems the dynamic duo had their 'no days in jail' plan in play even before Associate Judge David Wiseman issued the one year, 30 day sentence to the disgraced ex-governor.

Yesterday in a mockery of justice, the Parole Board allowed residents to submit letters. This appears to be another orchestrated event planned by Governor Inos to get the people behind his despicable act.  After all this is not a parole hearing. Fitial never spent a day in jail. It is a pardon, which the governor has the power to execute.

Yesterday the Board of Parole arranged for residents to go to the Multi-Purpose Center to drop off their letters expressing their opinion on the pardon.  Then, as expected, the Board of Parole voted to support a commutation of Fitial's jail sentence.

There could have been 300 letters opposing the pardon and 50 supporting it, and the board still would have voted the same way. This was all pre-planned. The criminal was to be pardoned even before he plead guilty to the two counts.

Perhaps Fitial threatened all of his cronies that he would spend his days in prison writing a tell-all book to expose their collusion, corruption and crime.  Perhaps Governor Inos feels a sense of loyalty to his corrupt brother in crime. Whatever the reason, justice will not be served when this criminal is pardoned.

Fitial Likely Won't Spend A Day in Jail

June 27, 2015

Disgraced ex-governor Benigno Fitial's prison sentence seemed far too lenient for many.

After all,  his unethical scheming, in-your-face acts of corruption, and "flagrant display of abuse of authority" span decades. From stories of promoting prostitution in his now-closed nightclub, Orchids - to back-door deals with Jack Abramoff - to freeing a federal prisoner for a late night massage - to illegal election activities - to penning illegal contracts with pals - to helping his criminal ex-Attorney General Buckingham escape the CNMI to avoid imprisonment, tales of this guy's unethical and criminal activity could fill a book.

His acts of hate are also memorable. Who can forget an angry Fitial shouting, "Go home!" to legal foreign workers as they gathered outside of a Congressional Hearing that was held on Saipan? Or using government time and money to organize anti-immigrant rallies where racist ideals were promoted? Or scheming with Guamanian cronies to get the pathway to citizenship removed from the CNRA?

One year? Far too short, but it certainly sends a message that corrupt politicians may not get away with their crimes. A deterrent? Maybe, if he actually spends time behind bars.

We should not be surprised that Fitial's attorney, Steven Nutting, is asking for an extension to his July, 6, 2015 deadline to report to prison.

We also expect his lifelong pal, Governor Eloy Inos to pardon him. After all, they were the dynamic dual scheming with Willie Tan and Jack Abramoff oh so many years ago. Their schemes cost the CNMI $11 million in lobbying fees and a tarnished reputation.

For a term of one year, Fitial would be eligible to apply for parole after spending one-third of his sentence or 122 days in jail. Let him spend at least that long and have the time to reflect on the harm that he did, the trust that he breached and the people that were hurt by his corrupt acts.

Transcript of his sentencing:

The Saipan Tribune reports that Ramon B. Camacho placed a newspaper ad yesterday announcing  a pardon hearing to be held from June 30 - July 1, 2015 at 9:00am at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe. He claims an individual requested the hearing, but he refuses to reveal who this person is. (Inos? Nutting? Fitial?)

From the Saipan Tribune:
In the announcement, Camacho said the board will be considering whether to support or object to a pardon for Fitial. 
Camacho said after hearing public testimony and discussing the matter, the board will then vote on whether to support or object to Gov. Eloy S. Inos’ issuance of a pardon. 
The chairman urged anyone wishing to submit a written statement to the board for its consideration may do so by dropping it off in person at the Board of Parole Office on Capitol Hill prior to the June 30 hearing.
So slick, so typical of those in power in the CNMI. Hold a pardon hearing so Governor Inos doesn't look so bad for pardoning his lifelong friend? When has such a hearing been held before for any criminal?

I also love the fact that a statement has to be dropped off in person. No long-distance views are welcome, thank you very much.

Anyone can predict the ending to this story. The criminal will walk. And as he leaves the commonwealth a free bird, Fitial will likely toss the cane, flash his Cheshire Cat smile (or is it the Joker smile?) and laugh at the victims left behind.

America Is Changing Its Colors

June 26, 2015

About time!

Saipan Casino Jobs Offered to U.S. Citizens: Those Living in Atlantic City, NJ

June 26, 2015

CNMI Department of Labor Secretary Edith DeLeon Guerrero has spoken out over the last few months with the message that the CNMI will not have enough skilled workers to replace the foreign workers who will return to their homelands in 2019 when the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Program ends. She also stated that there are not enough funds to train the CNMI's U.S. citizens to replace those workers. Her message was given to U.S. Department of Interior's Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs, Esther Kia'aina, to the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, and the Rotary Club.

It appears the CNMI politicians are posturing to pressure the U.S. Congress to renew the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Program that was to be phased out in 2019 so that U.S. immigration laws applied to the CNMI.

Political leaders in the CNMI know that the legal, longtime foreign workers are essential to maintaining a strong economy and filling positions from accountants, to nurses to hotel clerks. Still they refuse to push for them to be granted a pathway to citizenship, even though they are essential community members and de facto citizens since they have lived legally in the CNMI 5, 10, 15 even 20 or more years. Many fear that giving the disenfranchised legal foreign workers a pathway to citizen would mean giving them the right to vote and could weaken their political control since the natives have been a minority in their islands for decades. (Due to the fact that they brought in tens of thousands of foreign workers.)

Well, let these politicians welcome 200 or so U.S. citizens who will have a vote.
Saipan's Best Sunshine Casino is hiring an estimated 180 U.S. casino workers -dealers, cashiers and shift managers. Perhaps some of these positions are ones that locals could have been trained to fill.

According to a New article, perks will include free travel, insurance, a meal on every shift and free housing:
Renard International Hospitality Search held a job fair Wednesday and will run another one Thursday at the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel, the report said. 
Anyone willing to uproot to the U.S. Commonwealth in the Northern Mariana Islands by July 10 to help open the casino is also being offered a signing bonus. Pay starts at $40,000 for dealers; supervisors can earn from $45,000-$75,000.
Press of Atlantic City reports:
Renard International Hospitality Search Consultants is looking to fill at least 180 jobs — but probably more — at Saipan’s Best Sunshine International Casino. So Stephen Renard and several associates are in Atlantic City holding a job fair from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and Thursday to recruit people to staff a casino scheduled to open July 15.
On June 18, 2015 businessman Norman Tenorio was quoted as saying that the casino could be a good thing for the CNMI since it would provide jobs. From the Marianas Variety:
“In the past the government was able to provide jobs for just about everybody, but now the casino, hopefully, will provide good jobs for everybody,” Tenorio said, adding that he is encouraging locals to apply for the jobs that Best Sunshine, the Saipan casino investor, is offering.
It seems local workers were offered an opportunity to apply for some of the jobs and 200 applied for the estimated 500 jobs offered.

 One commenter on the MV story stated:
To the elected officials who gave courtesy to apply for a jobs at Best Sunshine. Let me tell you straight, my friends who are all U.S. Citizens submitted their resumes, including scheduled interviews and followed-ups, but Best Sunshine is not responding to their emails. Wake up Legislators, because few casino workers are coming in from the Philippines in a few weeks. I've seen a key employee (Manager) from Tinian Dynasty in Garapan this week.
It will be interesting to see how this 'casino industry' plays out. The CNMI initially attempted to build their economy with the garment industry. That endeavor did more to establish the reputation of the CNMI as human rights violator than it did to provide locals with jobs or build the economy. Will the casino industry be another green flash?

Fitial Sentenced to Five Years in Prison: All suspended except one

June 24, 2015

Yesterday, Superior Court Associate Judge David Wiseman sentenced notorious ex-governor Benigno Fitial for corruption charges. For the charge of  misconduct in public office he received the maximum sentence of five years in jail, all suspended except for one year with a $5,000 fine. For conspiracy to commit theft he received the maximum sentence of one year, with 30 days to serve and a $1,000 fine.

The charges relate to the two-term governor allowing a federal prisoner to be released from jail to give him a late night massage and for providing an airport escort to help ex-Attorney General Edward Buckingham escape from the CNMI after a warrant was issued for his arrest for 6 corruption charges.

Fitial entered the courtroom on the arm of his wife, Josie, walking slowly a cane and looking many years older than  his 69 years. The courtroom was filled with his supporters.

Fitial's attorney, Stephen Nutting presented the court with 19 letters of support from family members, friends, former classmates and former government officials asking the judge for leniency.

The letters cite his years of public service and poor health as a consideration for leniency in sentencing.One letter writer was former Ports Authority Board chair Jose Lifoifoi, who touted Fitial's years of service to the CNMI. He noted that the impeachment and this trial tarnished those years of service. (Actually Fitial, himself, tarnished any years of service with his corrupt, unethical and legal acts.)

Judge Wiseman said that Fitial's conduct cannot, should not, and will not be tolerated and the proverbial message must be sent that government officials who betray the public trust by violating the laws of the CNMI will in all likelihood go to jail.

Chief Prosecutor Leonardo Rapadas said that the sentencing sends a strong message to all government officials that they are not safe. They need to adhere to the ethics of the office."

Office of the Public Auditor prosecutor George Hassleback said that the sentencing was a "testament to those people out there who step forward and speak up when they see incidences of corruption within our government."

Fitial reportedly asked his family for forgiveness. He must report to the department of corrections by July 6, 2015.

It is unlikely that Fitial will spend even one day in jail. His long-time business and political pal, Governor Eloy Inos will most likely pardon him, or he will fail to return to the CNMI from the Philippines where he has been living for the last few years.

More to follow.

Disgraced Ex-Governor Fitial to Face Sentencing on June 24th

June 12, 2015

Sentencing for CNMI ex-Governor Benigno Fitial has been rescheduled to June 24, 2015.

George Hasselback, attorney for the Office of the Public Auditor, is asking Superior Court Associate Judge David Wiseman to impose a two-year sentence with no chance for parole, a ten year ban on government employment in the CNMI, and a fine of no less than $5,000 for conspiring to commit theft of services related to the great escape of ex-Attorney General Edward Buckingham. (See these related posts.) The office of the Attorney General recommended the maximum sentence of one year in jail for misconduct in office and a fine of an undisclosed amount.

Fitial's attorney Stephen Nutting asked the court for leniency:
“Subjecting Mr. Fitial to further punishment in the way of a term of incarceration as will be recommended by the government, would not serve the interests of justice, nor would it serve the interests of the commonwealth. Further punishment would only serve the demand for senseless retribution voiced by those few adversaries who either fail, or are unwilling to recognize all of the positive things Mr. Fitial did for the commonwealth while he was in the executive office and over the course of his long and distinguished career. 
On behalf of Mr. Fitial, counsel respectfully recommends that if the court determines a term of imprisonment should be imposed, that it be suspended in its entirety, on the condition that Mr. Fitial pay an appropriate fine and restitution for any loss to the commonwealth which might be proven for the crimes he now stands to answer for.”
A few adversaries? How about tens of thousands of foreign workers who suffered abused under this tyrant's reign? Consider all of the garment workers who were denied proper pay and benefits and suffered incredible injustices under the rule of officers Fitial and Inos in Tan's sweatshops over the span of decades.

Consider his role in preventing justice for the legal, longterm nonresident workers and their families. It was Fitial who solicited the support of high ranking Guamanian racists to manage to get the provision that would give the CNMI's legal nonresidents a pathway to citizenship removed from the CNRA. The legal, nonresidents workers who have lived and worked in the CNMI for 5, 10, 15, 20 or more years can thank Benigno Fitial for their current unstable and undeserved immigration status.

Fitial at the anti-alien hate fest, May 2010 ©Itos Feliciano May 2010
Remember all of the anti-worker, racists rallies led by Fitial and his racist followers? (Read about some here, here, and here.)The long-suffering nonresident still have no justice due in great part to this man whose agenda is anything but just.

Nutting touted Fitial's service to the CNMI and his "long and distinguished career" in his ten-page report to the court. Yes, indeed,  his care was "long and distinguished as a corrupt, self-serving politician.

Fitial's "long and distinguished career" is based in large part on unethical and sleazy deals made with  lobbyist and former U.S. Congressman, including felon-lobbyist Jack Abramoff (read about some connections here) and his foot soldiers former Rep. Bob Schaffer (read story here), former Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (read story here), former Rep. Tom DeLay (read story here), former Rep. John Doolittle (read story here), former Chief of staff for former rep. John Doolittle and Abramoff deputy, Kevin Ring (read story here).

It is ironic that Nutting mentioned that Fitial served as Speaker of the CNMI House, as if that was a positive in considering leniency in sentencing. Fitial's "long and distinguished career" as a politician includes the nefarious, back door deal that he made with lobbyist-convicted felon Jack Abramoff to secure the office of Speaker of the House in 1999.  Fitial was to get the speakership so he could ensure that the CNMI could continue to pay millions of dollars to Abramoff to lobby against alien workers' rights, to delay federalization of the minimum wage and to prevent implementation of federal immigration laws. Fitial's speakership scheme also involved former U.S. House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX), and Jack Abramoff's side-kicks convicted felon Michael Scanlon and Ed Buckham. (Read the story herehere and here.)

All in all, Abramoff drained over $11 million from the CNMI coffers. That didn't hurt the people of the CNMI who needed money for infrastructure, schools, health care and other programs?

Nutting wrote:
“It is worth noting that out of [the] four events [contained in a May 1, 2014 information filed against Fitial in court], there were no claims made by the government that Mr. Fitial personally profited from any of the crimes charged. In fact, it appears that the only personal benefit he received from all the actions which supported the charges that were filed against him was the massage therapy he received from the former [detainee],” said Nutting.
Who can forget Massage-gate when the governor, aided by CNMI officials from the Department of Corrections, released his masseuse to give him a late-evening massage at his mansion. Abuse of powers, much?

Did Fitial profit from his long career as a corrupt politician? If power is an advantage, then the answer is 'yes'.  Most of Fitial's crimes involved using political power to advance his career or the careers of his political allies. He was on the CNMI payroll while serving in the CNMI House and while serving as Governor. His corruption and political reign resulted in a human cost. No one can put a price on that.

If I were to sentence Fitial, I would not excuse ill-health or consider supposed "service" to the people of the CNMI.  I would consider all of the money that he drained from the CNMI coffers to advance a self-serving and racist agenda at the expense of innocent community members and nonresident workers and their families. I would sentence him to the maximum years of prison time without a chance of parole, 1,000 hours of community service to be conducted in the CNMI, a lifetime ban from government employment and I would revoke any retirement benefits that he receives from the CNMI.