Pain Caused Governor Fitial to Release Prisoner














January 14, 2010

U.S. prosecutors said that Governor Fitial ordered the unauthorized release of a federal prisoner to give him a massage according to the Marianas Variety and the court document filed January 13, 2010.

On January 5, 2010 Qingmei Chang was ordered to be held without bail on a human smuggling charge. Prior to her arrest she was reportedly a masseuse with YuYu Spa earning $600 a month. The governor was one of her customers.

The Office of the Attorney General has not commented on this breach of public trust and/or any violations of law. A Marianas Variety reporter said that the governor declined to comment when asked about the situation after a press conference:
Fitial fled from reporters and sought refuge in his office after the conclusion of a brief signing ceremony yesterday afternoon with visiting U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary Tony Babauta regarding a $1.2 million grant for the CNMI.

Before the news briefing, acting Press Secretary Teresa Kim told the media that the governor would not entertain any questions.

After the ceremony, reporters tried to ask the governor about the masseuse issue, but he said nothing as he walked faster than usual toward his ground floor office adjacent to the conference room.
The Saipan Tribune reports that a joint statement was issued by the Office of the Governor and the Department of Corrections. I do not have a copy of the statement, but from what the Saipan Tribune reported it looks like the governor will try to justify his actions. From the article:
The statement said Fitial and Aldan have each prepared a sworn statement “to clarify lingering questions surrounding the facilitated and secured transportation” of a federal detainee from the Department of Corrections facility in Susupe to the governor's residence in Gualo Rai on Jan. 8 and back to the Corrections facility.

Fitial said he hopes his statement and that of the DOC commissioner will help paint a clearer picture of the events that took place.

“I made this request because this was an unusual situation where I needed to address the extraordinary pain I was experiencing and also wanted to follow proper procedures before a detainee is released from custody, even if only temporarily,” said the governor.

Fitial said on the night of Jan. 7 and continuing into the early morning hours of Jan. 8, 2010, he experienced severe back pain and was unable to sleep.

“I tried to reach Qing Mei Cheng and found that she was in custody. I spoke with the Department of Corrections commissioner and asked her to get in contact with the attorney general.”

The administration said Aldan attested to these facts in her sworn statement.

“I immediately tried to reach both the Attorney General and Don Hall who works for the U.S. Marshals [Service]. I know that we should coordinate on federal detainee removal from the facility prior to its occurrence. To the best of my recollection, I made about seven calls to the number I have for Deputy Hall and about six calls to the cell phone of the attorney general. I did not receive any return call and was unable to speak with either the Attorney General or Deputy Hall,” said Aldan.

Fitial said after his conversation with Aldan, “Qing Mei Cheng arrived at my residence. DOC Commissioner and three other Corrections officers as well as my wife were present for the duration of Qing's visit.”

The statement said Aldan exercised her decision to facilitate a secured transport of the federal detainee after numerous unsuccessful attempts to reach both Attorney General Ed Buckingham and Hall.

“I made a decision that a short, escorted visit for detainee Qing Mei Cheng to the governor's residence was appropriate. I also decided that we should have extra security just in case there were any later questions. Accordingly, I directed three officers to accompany me to the governor's residence,” said Aldan.

The DOC commissioner also attested that the DOC staff and first lady Josie Fitial were present during the period that the massage therapy was administered.

“Following the conclusion of the massage therapy, I directed the return of Qing Mei Cheng to the DOC facility,” Aldan said.

In both their sworn statements, Fitial and Aldan attested that no discussion regarding the detainee's legal issues took place. The short dialogue was limited to pointing out which areas the severe pains were coming from.

“I also recall that I did not ask her about whatever legal situation she may now face and made no inquiries or promises to her of any kind,” the governor said.

Aldan added that later on the same morning of Jan. 8, she was able to contact Deputy Marshall Don Hall and Attorney General Ed Buckingham to inform them of what had transpired.
Yes, the picture is very clear. I hope the judge arrests, fines or holds anyone involved in contempt of court as the law allows. If this happened in New York, California or any other state, the governor would be forced to resign.

The whole situation shows an extreme lack of judgment of the Governor and the Department of Corrections officials. The governor obviously thinks he can do whatever he wants regardless of laws and procedures. I am sure that the masseuse served many customers. Could these other customers just pick up the phone and order that the prisoner be escorted to their houses by CNMI officials using government vehicle? That would be a resounding NO! This incident demonstrates a flagrant abuse of power. It appears that the governor used his position and his office to violate procedure and a court order.

Most people who are experiencing pain contact medical personnel or go to the hospital. The fact that the whole operation transpired in the middle of the night suggests that the participants knew it was not ethical, legal or both.

So many unanswered questions remain. Could this action compromise the case? Why when the governor learned that she was in jail didn't he get another masseuse? What makes the governor think he can take a prisoner out of jail? Can a prisoner even be earning money outside of jail? Should a company be accepting money for services performed by a prisoner?

The arrogance and of this governor is off the charts! The Saipan Tribune reported:
The administration's statement said the federal detainee has been providing massage therapy to the governor prior to her arrest and detention, and that her fees were paid through the company she worked for.

“I have found that massage therapy has been helpful for the temporary relief of back pain, including to aid in achieving restful sleep. Different massage therapists have had more or less success in relieving my back pain. One of the best has been Qing Mei Cheng,” Fitial said.
U.S. District Judge Alex Munson ordered that there was good cause for the hearing that is set for January 15, 2010 at 3:00 pm. (Today, Saipan time.)

The governor's wife appears to be an accessory to the act. Surely, there must be consequences for every party involved. Flagrant abuses of power and a disregard for federal laws should not be accepted. There has to be some accountability.

Calling for Resignation

In a post on Facebook, Angelo Villagomez called for the governor's resignation. Apparently, the governor's daughter, Christine Fitial, a law student in San Diego, California took offense to the post and a lively exchange between commenters followed. Read it on Angelo's Facebook page.

Would the CNMI legislature call for Governor Fitial to resign? Would the voters? It's doubtful. After all, the last four years in the CNMI must have been some of the worst with serious economic problems, the guilty verdicts of some of the governor's key officials, and other scandals. Still Fitial was re-elected. Again, if this incident happened in the states, surely the governor would be gone in a matter of weeks. Yet it seems that the rules are always different in the CNMI, so who knows.

43 comments:

The Saipan Blogger said...

Hey, I need someone to mow my lawn. The grass is really long. Can I get a felon out of jail to mow it?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone known if the public can attend the hearing today? Will the governor be there?

Anonymous said...

Wow, Wendy, It really show how much you hate Governor Fitial. I just can't understand why you are so pissed at the Governor. You even had to mention that Angello Villagomez is calling for Governor Fitial's resignation. Why do you think that what Angello say is so important? He left the island just like you did because he just can't make a living here.

Be fair and let the legal system take care of the issue. Stop jumping to conclusion!

the teacher said...

The girl is a hooker with many refs on Saipan and not a trained messagee specialist.

Ask around, its a small island and papers seldom get the story straight.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that the governor attempted to defend himself. He is so narcissistic that he probably thinks his actions were justified! Any criminal can make a pathetic excuse. Get caught robbing a store? No problem, just say you were hungry. Get caught dealing drugs? No problem, just say you needed money for the kids.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 6:54

I don't hate Fitial. I do hate corruption, spin, lawlessness, injustice and disrespect for the law.

I mentioned Angelo because he wrote a very interesting post that even attracted comments from the governor's daughter and some other interesting people. In fact he invited people to read it in a comment on the post below. I am sure many people would like to read it. In fact, I recommend it.

By the way Angelo left the island to return to college. That is commendable -good for him!

The post is more than fair. I would even say it was respectful and generous considering what a scandalous act was committed by the governor.

Anonymous said...

Let's ALL go to court and ask for his resignation!

Anonymous said...

Who in their right mind is going to defend the governor? Now we will see who has some ethics and who just kisses butt. Too many people on this island just shut their mouths to keep their jobs. It's time people start to speak up and say NO MORE CORRUPTION! IMPEACH FITIAL!

The Saipan Blogger said...

Somebody else posted that link, not me. They made the same comment on the Variety website. Don't know who it was.

Anonymous said...

Who's boat were they using? Who was in on this? You can't just be a bunch of foreigners and come up with a vessel to take 24 people to Guam. There's more to this story. Is there a boat impounded anywhere?

Wendy said...

Whoever posted the link, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Didn't this lady have an attorney? What does the attorney have to say about his client being pulled out of jail?

Anonymous said...

Her appointed attorney was Jed Horey. Can't imagine he is too pleased with this.

Anonymous said...

Noni 7:16

Let's all go to the legislature and DEMAND his impeachment. This guy should be joining Villagomez in a federal prison.

Anonymous said...

There is no more credibility for this administration. None with the federal government. We must be the laughing stock in Washington.

Anonymous said...

Who among the prison officials is the son-in-law of Fitial?

The Saipan Blogger said...

KSPN had a really funny broadcast last night. You can view it online.

Anonymous said...

ENOUGH! PLEASE JUDGE MUNSON THROW THIS CRIMINAL IN PRISON.

Wendy said...

Here's the link to the KSPN story

Anonymous said...

I love that all of the Fitial supporters have been silenced. What will they say when their governor has to step down. Who will Inos appoint as his Lt Governor? Any guesses?

Anonymous said...

The Tribune article says the Gov and Aldan made sworn statements. Does this mean they won't be in court today. I was hoping to listen to them cross-examined.

Anonymous said...

Fitial should join the ranks of disgraced governors. Here is a list from stateline.org

Governors who resigned amid political scandal, in chronological order:
1. New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D), effective March 17, 2008, after it was disclosed that he had hired prostitutes.
2. New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey (D), who resigned effective November 2004 after revealing in August 2004 that he had an affair with another man.
3. Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland (R), who stepped down effective July 1, 2004, in the face of impeachment proceedings and a federal criminal probe into allegations that he steered contracts to political allies and companies and accepted gifts from contractors, including renovations to a vacation home.
4. Arizona Gov. Fife Symington (R), who left office in 1997 after being convicted of federal bank and wire fraud charges that later were overturned.
5. Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker (D), who resigned in July 1996 after being convicted of two felony charges related to the Whitewater investigations. Legislative leaders and the lieutenant governor had called for impeachment proceedings.
6. Tennessee Gov. Ray Blanton (D), embroiled in a pardon-selling scandal, who quit his post with just three days left in 1979. He was acquitted of those charges but later convicted of unrelated extortion and conspiracy crimes.
7. Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel (D), who resigned in 1977 after being convicted of racketeering and mail fraud. He served 19 months in prison before his conviction was overturned. President Ronald Reagan (R) commuted Mandel's sentence in 1981 and his conviction was overturned in 1987.
8. Louisiana Gov. Richard Leche (D), who resigned in 1939 after a federal mail fraud conviction.
9. Indiana Gov. Warren McCray (R), who was convicted of mail fraud and resigned in 1924.
10. Mississippi Gov. Adelbert Ames (R), who resigned after being impeached in 1876 but before the Legislature could convict and remove him.
11. Georgia Gov. Rufus Brown Bullock (R), who resigned in 1871 while under investigation for a number of crimes.
12. Mississippi Gov. John A. Quitman (D), who resigned in 1851 before his arrest by a federal marshal and after an 1850 indictment for violating the federal Neutrality Act.

Governors who were removed after impeachment or legally forced from office by courts:
1. Alabama Gov. Guy Hunt (R), who was legally removed in 1993 after being convicted of illegally using campaign and inaugural funds to pay personal debts. He was later pardoned.
2. Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham (R), who was impeached in 1988.
3. North Dakota Gov. Thomas H. Moodie (D), who was legally removed from office by the state Supreme Court in 1935, less than a month into his term, after it was determined he was in violation of state residency requirements.
4. North Dakota Gov. William Langer (Non-Partisan League), who was legally removed from office by the state Supreme Court in 1934 after being charged with soliciting money from state workers.
5. Oklahoma Gov. Henry S. Johnston (D), who was impeached in 1929.*
6. Oklahoma Gov. John C. Walton (D), who was impeached in 1923.
7. Texas Gov. James E. Ferguson (D), who was impeached in 1917.
8. New York Gov. William Sulzer (D), who was impeached in 1913.
9. Nebraska Gov. David Butler (R), who was impeached in 1871.
10. North Carolina Gov. William W. Holden (D), who was impeached in 1871.

Two governors also have been recalled by voters in the nation's history: California Gov. Gray Davis (D) in 2003 and North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier (D) in 1921.

Anonymous said...

This whole story is unbelievable. The woman can charge the CNMI with cruel and unusual punishment for making her go massage the governor!

Anonymous said...

Fitial must resign. He has disgraced the entire commonwealth. Even his staunchest supporters are embarrassed.

Anonymous said...

“I made a decision that a short, escorted visit for detainee Qing Mei Cheng to the governor's residence was appropriate. I also decided that we should have extra security just in case there were any later questions. Accordingly, I directed three officers to accompany me to the governor's residence,” said Aldan.

Well, looks like the OAG didn't help write this statement because it's plain dumb. A short, escorted visit is appropriate? This person is in charge of prisoners? GOOD GOD! Make it stop...

Anonymous said...

Noni 9:17

Not so embarrassed that they ask him to resign and not so embarrassed that they make a statement. Did any reporter ask the lt. governor his opinion. No statement from him.

Anonymous said...

Noni 9:31,

Maybe because they are hoping that the story will go away or that we'll be so distracted with speculating about the "massage" and maybe even sympathizing with the Fitial's "pain" and tsk-tsking at the DOC commissioner's regretful admission of very bad judgment, that we'll forget that the Governor:

1) committed an egregious abuse of power when he

2) ordered the release of a federal prisoner who had

3) just been indicted only two days prior for 22 counts of human smuggling and had been deemed such a flight risk that she couldn't even post bail.

I don't care whether or not the Governor really was suffering a back spasm (two days after this lady was indicted), whether or not he really got a massage, or whether or not his wife was there... The Fitial spin artists can try to distract me, but it won't work.

I want Fitial to resign. Let Eloy be governor. He can't possibly abuse his power or humiliate us more, and he might actually show more respect for his office than Fitial ever has.

If Fitial were REALLY smart, he would resign for health reasons, say nothing more, and just disappear from the public sphere completely and take his poor embarrassed family with him. Keep his supporters quiet about it. Let Eloy take over. And let the rest of us breathe a big sigh of relief and move on with our lives and business.

Anonymous said...

He is too arrogant to ever resign and the whole family will keep talking.

Anonymous said...

http://saipanhomes.blogspot.com/2010/01/breaking-newscnmi-goveror-gets-message.html

With pictures of fabulous Saipan:)

Anonymous said...

For someone with intense back pain the governor ran very quickly into his office!

Anonymous said...

The gig is up. Time to step aside.

Anonymous said...

I have severe back pain and probably need the services of a full time masseuse. I don't care if she has been cross trained to be a prostitute and a trafficker of humans! Who do I contact in the CNMI government to get her released into my custody? I will pay her more than $600 per month and will obtain a bond from one of those reputable bonding companies on Saipan! I will provide her with three meals a day and change her sheets once a day.

Saipan Writer said...

Don't forget the Trib photo of the 1st lady and the Governor at the inauguration. When it made the paper, I wondered why the sour/angry facial expressions. Now, with this information, it looks like she found out and he's feeling like a man who's been caught.

my other comments (and a copy of the photo) here: http://saipanwriter.blogspot.com/2010/01/2-days-down-4-years-363-days-to-go.html

Wendy said...

Hi Jane

Thanks for your comments. Your post is excellent.. Readers can find it at Saipan Writer

Anonymous said...

A picture tells a thousand words.

Anonymous said...

Chiro-Impractical

Gov.'s backache now a pain in neck

Benigno Fitial, the governor of the Northern Mariana Islands, was having a very tense day of governoring and decided to treat himself to a nice massage. So he called and had his favorite masseuse brought over to the mansion for a deep-tissue treatment. He knew just where she was: in jail. But he she was good. So he ordered her temporary release. The corrections commissioner, three corrections officers and Mrs. Fitial were all in the room, so there was no funny business. Most likely. Anyway, after the session, she was returned to the jail. But now that the news is out, some people are really upset about the whole incident, because she was in jail on federal charges of human smuggling, and officials think that the charges are serious enough that Fitial should find another masseuse. He said he didn't know the charges against her.

Anonymous said...

Noni 10:00am

A good comment. May it come to pass. His poor wife must be humiliated. His daughter is trying to defend her disgraced father. nver mind the people of the CNMI. Spare your family any more embarrassment governor and resign now.

Anonymous said...

Noni 12:28 He knew the charges if he can read the paper. All of the names were publicized when the story was out the first week in January. He is a liar if he says he didn't know she was in jail. He knew. You believe that the corrections officer and his wife were in the ropm? I don't. If it's true that he can't read the papers and didn't know the charges (unlikely) then who cares. No one should take a prisoner out of jail no matter what the charges are.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 12:52

The comment at 12:28 is a link to the St. Petersberg Times newspaper that is carrying the story about the governor.

Humanitarian said...

Governor Fitial deserves a commendation for his self-sacrifice in continuing to serve our people despite the extraordinarily debilitating pain of extreme spinal stenosis.

Why not research that before posting your biased opinions. You are demonstrating grave evil and hatred in your unreasoning vituperation against the Governor's plight.

Any appellate court in the country would say that Fitial hasn't done a single thing wrong.

It is precisely because of your lynch mob mentality, putting emotion above real facts and the rule of law, including the “Rule of Necessity”, that our Commonwealth is in such dire straights. You should really be ashamed of yourself, Wendy.

Shame, shame, on American soil!

And Jane, as a lawyer, you should know better. You saw his deep physical pain. Apparently your legal service work is just a job and not motivated by any sincere compassion. You need to take a deep look into the mirror and your conscience at what you are doing to our community to satisfy your sordid political biases.

Double shame on you, Jane!

High-tech lynching, Part II!

Amazing.

Incivility incarnate.

Wendy said...

Humanitarian

I moved your comment up to this post. The shame is on you, on the governor, and on anyone who makes excuses for this behavior. This is NOT about pain. Lots of people have chronic pain and do not make such poor choices. Poor choices that have captured the attention of the media across the nation. If this was a little thing it would not be in the national news! It's a big deal.

Lynch mob mentality? Garbage. How many comments on these posts and in the Variety have been showing support for the governor's actions?

You said, "It is precisely because of your lynch mob mentality, putting emotion above real facts and the rule of law, including the “Rule of Necessity”, that our Commonwealth is in such dire straights. You should really be ashamed of yourself, Wendy. I put the commonwealth in dire straights? Wow! Are you serious?

If the governor is in such pain, he needs to resign. You seem to be suggesting that the pain has caused him to make inappropriate choices and bad decisions. Anyone in so much pain that they would think it is okay to release a prisoner is not capable of leading.

"Grave evil and hatred?" You are so blinded by your loyalty to the governor that you cannot even admit this was a terrible choice! Furthermore, if you are so confident in your opinions, then come out from behind your anonymous name! It's easy to fling poison arrows when you don't have the courage or decency to identify yourself.

Shame on Jane. No way! Why because she has the courage to state the truth? Jane does not hide behind an anonymous name like you do either.

Shame on the defenders of corruption and on the defenders of lawlessness. And shame on you for suggesting that people who do not agree with you are not civil.

Anonymous said...

This humanitarian, sure sounds like it could be one of the Gov's "volunteers" or in house "token Haoles"

Anonymous said...

Didn't the guv ask one of his advisers before he did it? I'd been reading the newspapers and this blogspot but did not read how this news got out? Can somebody post it here? This really is interesting.