Massage-Gate: Affidavits and declarations raise more questions

February 5, 2010

It is interesting that Attorney General Buckingham felt that the affidavits and declarations make it unnecessary for an evidentiary hearing. In fact, they raise even more questions that should be answered.

Buckingham stated in his Reply to Response:
Attached please find sworn affidavits of Dolores Aldan and Governor Benigno R. Fitial, and Declarations of Abigail Borja and Georgia Cabrera describing the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident. These sworn statements do not in any way support the Government's position that a hearing is necessary but rather indicate that no actions occurred at any time which would prejudice the Government's case against Ms. Cheng nor effect Ms. Cheng's due process or civil rights. The Government was in possession of the affidavits (but not the declarations), which had not been made at the time) and had full knowledge of their contents prior to requesting an evidentiary hearing
The affidavits are vague, which may be why the federal government supports a hearing. There is no declaration or affidavit from Sgt. Arnold Kaipat Seman who was also involved in the incident.

Buckingham stated: "The Claim that 'Unsupported Assertions of Counsel' require an evidentiary hearing is now moot."

Below are links to the affidavits and statements.

Affidavit of Benigno Fitial
The governor stated that his affidavit was made in his "official capacity." Was that statement made to ensure that the AG represent him?

He declared:
I have found that massage therapy has been helpful for the temporary relief of back pain, including to aid and 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.
He then states that he had back pain and couldn't sleep. He stated, "I tried to reach Qing Mei Cheng and found that she was in custody." He does not say who he called to learn that she was in custody.

He continues:
I spoke with the Department of Corrections Commissioner Dolores M. Aldan and asked her to get in contact with the Attorney General. I made this request because this was an unusual situation where I needed to address extraordinary pain I was experiencing and also wanted to follow proper procedures before a detainee is released from custody, even if only temporary.
He obviously knew the prisoner should not be released. Does a "proper procedure" even exist for such a request? The idea that anyone would order the release of a prisoner to relieve pain when there are numerous alternatives is just beyond reason or belief.

Aldan states:
During the early morning hours of January 8, 2010 I spoke to the Governor about him experiencing severe pain and requesting that Qing Mei Cheng provide him assistance. The Governor said he was unable to go to sleep. He also asked me to contact the Attorney General.
...I made a decision that a short, escorted visit from the detainee Qing Mei Cheng to the Governor's residence was appropriate.
There are some choices of words that seem odd and misplaced such as "visit" and "appropriate." Can such an incident be qualified as a "visit" or as "appropriate"?

She made this statement:
I also decided that we should have extra security just in case there were any later questions.
The fact that she thought there would be "later questions" suggests she knew her action was wrong.

Then there is this statement:
Qing Mei Cheng arrived at the Governor's residence and proceeded to provide massage therapy to the Governor. All of the DOC members remained present as well as the Governor's wife during this period.
This statement would lead one to assume that the officials were physically present with the masseuse at all times when she was massaging the governor. However this is not true according to the declarations that reveal that the officers were in other rooms in the residence, were outside chewing betelnut, were in the kitchen drinking coffee with an unidentified woman. So apparently "present" means present in the house, but not present with the masseuse and governor at all times.

Aldan states:
Following the conclusion of the massage therapy, I directed the return of Qing Mei Cheng to the DOC facility.
Directed the return, but did not oversee it. She was with another officer at Shirley's Restaurant having breakfast according to a declaration. She also does not state how long the "appropriate visit" lasted.

She explained that she made about 6 calls to the Attorney General and about 7 to Don Hall a US Marshal. Remember all of this went down around 3:00 am. Maybe they were asleep?

Aldan stated that she finally reached them after the incident: "Early Friday morning on January 8, 2010 I contacted both Deputy Marshall Don Hall as Well as Attorney General Buckingham to provide information on what had happened."

She continues:
Looking back at this situation, I hope those reviewing it can understand that I understand the limitations on federal detainees but felt it was important to help the Governor since he was in such severe pain. I made a decision to allow this visit to occur and regret that I was unable to reach federal officials or the Attorney General prior to it happening.
I doubt many people understand this act.

Aldan declared, "I have been advised and accept that I would not allow the visit again if the same facts arose." In another locality she would have been terminated and wouldn't be given the opportunity to ever make such a decision again.
DOC Officer Georgia Cabrera stated that she was sleeping when she received a phone call from Commissioner Dolores Aldan that she come in uniform to the DOC. She stated:
When I arrived at DOC I saw the Commissioner's car in the vehicular sally port. Entering the building through the vehicular sally port, I saw the Commissioner in the booking area. There was also a female detainee in a red inmate's uniform in the area. The Commissioner inquired if I had handcuffs. I answered that I did not. The Commissioner told me to handcuff the detainee. I directed a correction officer to handcuff the detainee. I had retrieved my firearm when I arrived at DOC and saw the time clock at that time and it read 3:05 am.

Sometime after this time Sgt. Arnold Seman arrived in the vehicular sally port and entered the booking area. Seman came out of the booking area with the female detainee into the vehicular sally port. Seman and the female detainee entered a car, the Commissioner entered another car and told me to follow Seman and the detainee. I got in the car with them and we left.

I inquired of Sgt. Seman where we were going, and he responded that we were going to the Governor's house. Shortly thereafter, we arrived at the Governor's house. The Governor's wife, Josie, met us at the door and we entered the house. There was another woman with her.

We entered the Governor's house and were shown upstairs to his bedroom. The Governor was lying on his back in bed and it was obvious he was in pain. The female detainee began to touch the Governor's feet. At the time the Governor, his wife, the detainee, the Commissioner and myself were in the room. I left the room and went downstairs. Sgt. Seman entered the house and went toward the rear of the house as if he were going to the Governor's bedroom. The Commissioner came downstairs, and for the rest of the time we were there she went up and down the stairs several times.

At some time I went outside with Officer Borja and we chewed betelnut.

The Commissioner continued to alternate between the Governor's bedroom upstairs and the kitchen/dining/living room area downstairs where I was. I conversed with the other woman in the room (I do not know her name) and drank coffee with her.

After an hour or so Sgt. Seman, the female detainee, the Commissioner, and the Governor's wife came downstairs to the kitchen. We exited the Governor's residence and Sgt. Seman, Officer Borja and the female detainee returned to the DOC. Commissioner Aldan and I went to Shirley's for breakfast.

At Shirley's Commissioner Aldan and I discussed what had happened and Aldan told me of her unsuccessful attempts to contact the Attorney General and Marshall Don Hall. She stated that she would continue to place calls to them until she could talk to them. After we ate I went home.

At no time did I hear any person talk to the detainee about her case or any other matter.
This statement and the statement of Abigail Borja indicate that people came and went from the governor's bedroom to the kitchen and outside. There were most likely times when the prisoner was not hand-cuffed, when she was not in the presence of an officer in the room. At least some of the time two officers were outside chewing betelnut. At least some of the time Seman was not inside the house. At least some of the time several officers were drinking coffee. At least some of the time Aldan was downstairs.

Abigail Borja declared:
On January 8, 2010, at around 2:40 a.m., I received a call from Officer David Wabol at DOC Central Control. He stated that Commissioner Aldan was waiting at DOC for Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT) officers to come in. I am one of those officers. A few minutes later the Commissioner called me and inquired of my status. I started heading down to DOC. I called Sgt. Seman and informed him that Commissioner Aldan was waiting for me there. Seman called me back in a few minutes and informed me that when I get to DOL I am to drive Captain Cabrera's car to the Governor's house.

Upon arrival at DOC I spoke to Kimo Taitano, the shift commander on duty. He told me that Cabrera's car was in the vehicle sally port. I obtained the keys and proceeded to the car and to the Governor's house.

I arrived at the Governor's house and saw Captain Cabrera standing outside. Also present was a DPS officer in the booth in front of the Governor's house. I gave Cabrera the car keys and asked what to do next. We went into the house. Upon entering the house I saw Commissioner Aldan and a male and a female in the kitchen area sitting at the dining table. I asked Captain Cabrera where Sgt. Seman was and she stated he was in the Governor's room with the female detainee.
Captain Cabrera, the man, the woman, Commissioner Aldan, and I sat in the dining area for a while. The Governor's wife came down and sat with us a couple of times. Either Commissioner Aldan or Captain Cabrera went up and down the stairs several times. I don't remember which one. Every now and then I would step outside. Sgt. Seman and I transported (I was driving) the detainee back to DOC. At DOC I transferred custody of the detainee to Officer Kenneth Leon Guerrero in the booking area. I then drove Sgt. Seman home and went back to the DOC area to assume my regular duties.

My only actual contact with the detainee was transporting her back to DOC. At no time did I hear any person speak to the detainee about her case or any other matter.
When this witness arrived Cabrera was outside. When they went inside the house Aldan was downstairs and the Governor's son-in-law, Sgt. Seman was with the prisoner-masseuse in the Governor's bedroom.

This statement introduces another figure, the unknown male. Other witnesses talked about Mrs. Fitial and an "unknown woman", but this witness states that she saw "Commissioner Aldan and a male and a female in the kitchen area sitting at the dining table." It's odd that the Commissioner and Cabrera never mentioned the male in their statements.

The declarations raise other questions. Can the pay of these officials to deliver the prisoner to the governor's house be justified?

Not one of the statements say what was said to the prisoner to convince her to comply. Was she ordered to go to the governor's house? Was she told where she was going? Was she willing to go? Was she afraid? Was she threatened? Is taking a prisoner from jail in the middle of the night to perform work against federal or local labor laws? Was she paid?

Also, attached as an exhibit to the reply to response is an email exchange between Buckingham and O'Malley.


Anonymous said...

Why didn't the AG have a declaration from Seman? Hmmm.

I think the mystery lady was the governor's daughter here for the inauguration. The mystery man?

Anonymous said...

In 2 weeks the evidentiary hearing should reveal some of what happened. I also question how the prisoner was treated during this "incident" that must have caused her to be awakened by her guards. She could walk because of the governor's shenanigans. Let's just hope HE doesn't walk. Enough already!

Anonymous said...

Maybe the AG thinks this is normal. I don't. I want to know who paid for these officials to take part in the governor's scheme. The governor needs to pay any salary and transportation costs for this fiasco. Why should taxpayers pay for these guards to chew betelnut, drink coffee and fill their faces at Shirleys? Now more than before I wonder if Fitial was talking with this massage girl to get her to shut up. Yeah guards were there at the house but not in the room! Slick wording and too much left out in these statements.

Anonymous said...

What are the regulations or guidelines about male officers guarding female detainees? What was Seman's role in this? Was he alone with the detainee in the governor's bedroom? The statements of the two female officers make it sound like a game of musical chairs. I don't think they knew who was in the room with the prisoner. When did they take the handcuffs off or did she massage with them on? The AG wants us to believe that this favorite "best" masseuse and the governor didn't have a conversation . She was always at his house before the arrest. She was taken out of custody BEFORE by the governor. She was his pet masseuse. There was conversation. There was conversation in the transport too.

Anonymous said...

There's a logical solution to this mess. Fire the DOC commissioner and let the federal government take over the prison. If there are charges that be lodged against Fitial file them now and teach this smug bug a lesson. Get Josie enrolled in some massage classes so she can administer the treatments her husband needs.

Anonymous said...

The feds could help the struggling poor people of the CNMI by taking over the correctional facility, CUC, the retirement fund, and prosecuting the Governor.

Oh no, would that make Froilan Lt. Guv?

The Saipan Blogger said...

It is not the Feds responsibility to run those institutions. If we want sovereignty we need to be able to do these things ourselves.

We don't need the Feds to step in, we need Fitial to step down and allow someone with competence to take charge.

That person was Heinz, but he lost because Fitial spent three times as much money during the campaign.

Anonymous said...

Take over CHC, also, please

Anonymous said...

Since Heinz was supposedly a doctor quack, better he goes to the governor's house and give him massage therapy. Dr. Heinz do it please.

Anonymous said...

Did the masseuse receive pay for giving the Governor a massage or did the spa she works for get paid? I bet this was a "free" service "voluntarily" provided by Ms. Cheng. I think we all know by now that the Governor does what he wants and his lackeys are thrown under the bus (or walk in front of the bus) time and time again when he is caught. This woman, who is a Federal detainee, was woken up in the dead of night to be transported to service the Governors' needs, which I'm sure she did not feel she could refuse. This sort of thing happens in 3rd world countries ruled by dictators who do not fear public outrage ... WAKE UP SAIPAN!!! Your beautiful island and people deserve far better than you are getting from the Governor and his appointed fall guys & gals.
- An Outsider Looking In

lawnchair lawyer said...

When this "incident" first came to light I thought how arrogant he is and why would he do something so stupid.
Yesterday I heard from two sources the FBI interviewed the female inmate and she told the investigator she and the Governor did talk about her pending case. If this is true then many involved are lying. The AG could end up looking like a total fool. This is getting more sinister as time passes. The big question is why did he want to talk to her? Hopefully the hearing will shed more light on this. This is just mind boggling. The guv could be connected to an ex-garment worker,sex trade worker, and now a accused human smuggler?

Anonymous said...

It's always the cover up that winds up nailing their asses to the wall.

Anonymous said...

"its not the crime Bob, its the lie, its always the lie that gets you" Richard M. Nixon

Anonymous said...

I just downloaded the email exchange and I have one question. How did Eric O'Malley get the apostrophe mark in his email address?

lawnchair lawyer said...

Munson quashed the hearing, the Guv slides on down the road. Guess I have to respect the decision.