Massage-Gate Updates

January 21, 2010

The Saipan Tribune reports that the U.S. Attorney Office decided not to subpoena Josie Fitial, the governor's wife, to testify concerning the governor's request to have his masseuse removed from jail to give him a late night massage. Apparently, they are reserving the right to summon her depending on the testimony of the other witnesses. From the article:
“From what I understand, she was a witness to the events that took place at the governor's residence so she may have information that we need. But our hope is that we can get the information that we need without having to subpoena her,” O'Malley said.

“I regret any undue stress that has caused for the first lady,” said the prosecutor, referring to his disclosure on Wednesday about also summoning Mrs. Fitial, in addition to Gov. Benigno R. Fitial.

The evidentiary hearing was set for Feb. 17, 2010. The U.S. government said the proceeding's primary purpose is to find out whether or not there was anything that might have prejudiced the case against defendant Qingmei Cheng.

According to a Fitial administration statement, Commissioner Aldan had stated that the DOC staff and the first lady were present during the massage therapy.
Three Defendants Get Probation

Three defendants in the human smuggling case signed plea agreements and all three were sentenced in the Disrtict Court yesterday and were given one year probation. The three: Ping Lui, 37, female; Jian Dong, 47, male and Junhua Chen 33, female will all be deported "pursuant to18 U.S.C. § 3563(b), and with the established procedures provided by the Immigration and Naturalization Act under 8 U.S.C. § 1101."

From the Marianas Variety:
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kirk Schuler, who prosecuted the case, in an e-mail said, “The three defendants that pleaded guilty [yesterday] made the decision to resolve their cases quickly in exchange for a favorable sentencing recommendation from the [U.S.] government. The [U.S.] government appreciates their cooperation and is pleased that the court sentenced defendants, charged with misdemeanors, to one-year terms of probation.”
As a condition of their probation, the three, once deported, cannot re-enter the U.S. without the permission of the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. The defendants were represented by their court-appointed lawyers: Colin Thompson, Eric Smith and Stephen Nutting.
Public Opinion Continues

Letters to the local papers and the comments made on the Marianas Variety articles indicate that the debate continues.

Senate President Paul Manglona was quoted in the Marianas Variety:
“As U.S. Assistant Attorney Eric O’Malley stated, he’ll get to the bottom of this. We are confident that he will do a good job,” Manglona, Ind.-Rota, told the Variety.

An ally of the governor, Manglona said the controversy has overshadowed the CNMI’s serious problems.

“This is an unfortunate incident that came at a time when all of us are really trying to address our problems,” he said.
In a letter to the editor Juan Sablan said,
The majority of writers are blaming Governor Fitial for allowing the federal detainee to go out from prison to perform massage without approval from the federal officials. The blame should not be with Governor Fitial, but blame should squarely fall on Mrs. Dolores M. Aldan, the supervisor for the Corrections facility, who did not use her good judgment to first get approval from the federal officials, since the detainee is federal property and not the CNMI.
But knowing from the background of Mrs. Aldan as a long time devotee of Christian belief to help other people who are in pain and needs, it over-shadowed her ability to make a good judgment....

Everyone knows here in the commonwealth that when Governor Fitial got his massage, there were visitors and dignitaries from all over the Marianas, Japan, Korea, China, Palau, the FSM and the U.S. mainland.

Our governor possibly was experiencing pain with his problem in his back from his busy schedule welcoming and entertaining visitors and dignitaries to our commonwealth.

Although despite the pain he was enduring, he showed real Chamorro/Carolinian hospitality during this very special occasion, his Inauguration Day.

Ask yourself these questions. If you are experiencing pain and you need to immediately feel better because you have to go to a very important job: Who would you call to have your pain treated? Do you call your massager who is massaging you for years and whose expertise you trust, or would you call somebody you do not know?
Show me even one other person who would have the audacity to consider having a prisoner released from jail for a massage! People who are in pain call a physician or medical practitioner. If someone insists that a masseuse is required to relieve pain why not get one who is not in jail? What is Christian about disobeying a court order or abusing one's power? Sad excuses that lack common sense make the whole situation look even more deplorable.

Another letter to the editor from Vince Cabrera stated:
What transpired in the past weeks regarding the federal detainee who took a short trip out of prison not just ruined the CNMI’s reputation but the well-being of every CNMI citizen.
What if the Department of Corrections convoy got ambushed at gunpoint? That short trip could have been very critical. I, for one, feel ashamed about this incident and ashamed to the whole world.
The world, now knowing where Saipan is, will label us one of those places whose officials abuse their power.
Not only did we sue Washington but also went out of our way and did something so outrageous.
Most comments from the Marianas Variety readers overwhelmingly show outrage and disgust at the governor and officials involved in the incident.


Anonymous said...

I read Mr. Juan M Sablan's letter and could not believe that any adult human being could be so out of touch with reality!

He made no attempt to lay any blame on either the Governor or the Commissioner of Corrections for the actions of one or both parties which resulted in a detainee being removed from her cell in the middle of the night and transported to the Governor's residence to give him a massage

According to Mr Sablan, it is perfectly OK to violate laws and/or procedures if you are in pain or you are acting out of some Christian beliefs!

I was really shocked upon learning that Mr. Sablan is the head of the newly formed Commonwealth Retirees Association! Armed with such opinions and Christian beliefs, he will never be able to stand up to this administration when it comes to enforcing the $231 Million judgment handed down by Judge Govendo several months ago!

He recently opined that the membership of the CRA were against the appointment of a receiver by the Federal District Court. Of course, he divined this without the benefit of a poll of the membership.

Anonymous said...

I am a beneficiary of the NMIRF. We do not, not, NOT want the fund looted by self-serving attorneys fees that come out of our pockets!

There is no need for any lawsuit at all, as the CNMI Constitution makes the central government the guarantor of the Fund. (The Trustees are just protecting themselves from personal liability.) We certainly don't need TWO lawsuits.

Judge Munson will soon dismiss or stay the frivolous duplicative federal lawsuit.

Fund members were permitted to intervene in the initial lawsuit now before Judge Govendo, but there is no reason to waste the attorneys fees doing so.