Massage-Gate: Not So Fast

February 8, 2010

The governor issued a bold statement in regard to the evidentiary hearing being terminated. He states "I have always believed that the truth always prevails. Today I am pleased that the truth has brought resolution to this matter."

The truth is that the governor ordered the release of a prisoner to go to his house to give him a massage. The truth is that the prisoner was ordered by the federal district court judge to be held without bail. The court order was violated. That is the truth.

I would have to disagree with the second part of his statement that claims that there has been resolution in the matter. Certainly there is no resolution! Former Rep. Tina Sablan was quoted by the Saipan Tribune as saying exactly what I had said. She stated: "The written testimonies of the governor, Corrections Commissioner Dolores M. Aldan, and other Corrections officers raise more questions than answers." She stated that the people of the CNMI deserve answers.

From the Saipan Tribune:

“Our local legislators have unfortunately been too quick to say that this matter is not within their jurisdiction to investigate, and have used the involvement of the federal judiciary as an excuse to do nothing. They are wrong. The governor has committed a clear and egregious abuse of power, and Department of Corrections officials have made decisions that cast great doubt on their judgment, integrity, and ability to ensure public safety,” she said.
While the judge ruled that there would be no evidentiary hearing, he also acknowledged in his order that there was a possibility of criminal charges being brought against the witnesses (the governor, Aldan and the officers) and that the USAO had the resources to conduct an investigation. He also suggested that a grand jury may be the correct venue rather than an evidentiary hearing. From the court order:
As acknowledged by the U.S. Attorney in its opposition, all subpoenaed participants at the evidentiary hearing face at least some possibility of being deemed criminally culpable. Because of that, the court is also concerned that it might need to assure individual counsel for each person subpoenaed. At that point, the evidentiary hearing will have become a full-blown adversarial proceeding but no one involved---the court, the plaintiff, or the subpoenaed parties - - will have any idea where it is going, if anywhere.

Finally, the court agrees that, given the paucity of grounds other than “possible prejudice to plaintiff and defendant, traditional investigation and use of the grand jury are more appropriate than a speculative, open-ended fact-finding hearing conducted under the aegis of the court.
There continues to remain a possibility that the USAO will investigate and file charges against Commissioner Aldan and Governor Fitial for violating the court order and releasing a prisoner for self-serving reason. From the Court order:
However, plaintiff has sufficient investigatory resources at its disposal, and sufficient processes and procedures to conduct its own inquiry into the facts surrounding this unprecedented event. The court concludes that it is inappropriate at this juncture to inject itself into such proceedings. Should plaintiff later be able to offer some evidence in support of its concerns, the court could entertain a new motion.
Did I miss something? Wasn't the evidentiary hearing to determine if the case was compromised by the release of the defendant? Did the USAO state that they dropped this matter? Did they say that they consider it fine that a governor ordered a prisoner released against court orders? Did they say they would not pursue this case? The federal government has an obligation to pursue the case and get to the bottom of it. They have an obligation to ensure that all federal laws are followed, that the public safety is ensured, and that prisoner's rights are upheld.

I seriously doubt that the judge's order puts "an end to this matter" as Buckingham stated. The judge did not rule that the removal of the prisoner was not a violation of law. He ruled not to hold an evidenttiary hearing to determine if the case was compromised. He also did not rule that the act was not an act of contempt.

Fitial and Buckingham's statements may be premature.

No Apology
It was assumed that the governor would surely issue an apology. Yet, he made no concessions, no admittance that an official should not be allowed to remove a prisoner from prison. Without consequences this governor will continue to act as if he is above the law. Even the CNMI Attorney General made no statement that the act was in violation of the agreement between the federal and local governments, that prisoners ordered by courts to be held without bail should remain in prison, or any other acknowledgment of the extreme outrageousness of the incident. And there was no statement saying, "This will never happen again", which could mean that it actually may happen again with the blessing of CNMI officials.

Marianas Variety editor Zaldy Dandan said it the best:

Except for announcements regarding a few cabinet appointments or re-appointments, the administration seems to be in a holding pattern until the masseuse matter is put to rest.

But new attempts to illegally enter Guam are keeping the controversy alive — as does the governor’s refusal to issue any kind of regret or apology.
Governor, the NMC students are right. You have to set an example. You are the leader of this commonwealth. You have to be responsible and accountable. What you did was wrong. Even your AG said he would have advised you not to do it. You, of all people, must abide by the rules. You must cooperate with the ongoing federal investigation and apologize to the people of the CNMI.
Climate of Fear
The "climate of fear is not just at Northern Marianas College. Government employees at a variety of government agencies said that they wanted to sign the petition asking Governor Fitial to resign, but they were afraid for their jobs. The Marianas Variety reported:
They said they really want to sign the petition “but our job is not worth the signature.”
“If I could include my signature on the online petition then I will be the first to do it, but I will also need a new job in a private company,” one of the employees said.

Another employee said she voted for the governor but now she wants him impeached. However, she added, “I do not want to be involved in any issue about him.”
There is an online petition calling for the governor's resignation.

KSPN2 Interview with buckingham and O'Malley here.


Anonymous said...

It's almost like the judge is telling them to investigate and file a new motion.

Anonymous said...

Or an indictment.

Anonymous said...

Calling all attorneys! Why did the governor and AG say it is resolved. I don't see this resolved either.

Anonymous said...

Okay FBI and US attorneys get to work and end the insanity!

Anonymous said...

It's over Wendy. Move on to something else.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 7:38

Actually it's not "over." You see elected officials cannot betray the public trust, cannot act as though they are above the law, cannot support commissioners who exhibit repeated instances of poor judgment, cannot commit outrageous acts, and cannot refuse to apologize and just walk away. Regardless of whether charges are filed or not, it will never be over because once a person does something so asinine and so utterly outrageous people who possess a moral compass will remember. This will follow Fitial forever. And probably the AG who supported him as well.

Anonymous said...

Let 's move on, it is over. Stop prolonging your despair. The judge already decided no case to get involve with.

Anonymous said...

Our idiotic Congress invited President Obama to visit but he will not come here to meet with the gangsters

TAGLISH said...

Anon 7:38 You're absolutely wrong!! I hope the people of CNMI will come as one this time. TAKE the judge's decision as a CHALLENGE. YOU, the PEOPLE of this island has the supreme power over and above these officials you have elected, don't forget that.

If WE Filipinos ousted two powerful men from their offices, then YOU can do it too. Be selfless, care about your fellowmen, think of the island as a whole!

here come da judge said...

Noni 8:18 Can you read? Please read the Order from the judge that Wendy posted a link to in the previous post. The judge almost urges the US to investigate. He leaves open a new motion. He leave open criminal action. He leaves open contempt charges. GET REAL!

Anonymous said...

I agree that the ball is in the US attorneys' and FBI agents' court. DON'T DROP THE BALL!

Anonymous said...

At least there is still one sane voice in a sea of crazies. Thank you Tina for speaking out. Where are the others? What about Heinz? Why so quiet?

Anonymous said...

Any person who thinks its ok to let prisoners out of jail is a plain ole idiot. If there is no law against that then there sure as hell better be one written. What kind of spineless legislators do we have? Since these people think nothing was wrong and the truth is out then I want the number of the DOC. My back hurts and my head is exploding from this. I need a massage and I want delivery. Or is it only ok if the governor wants a massage? We all need to call the jail and order out a massage. Let's see if there is nothing wrong with this.

Anonymous said...

OPA now that you are investigating Fitial using the manamko to cook for his campaign rallies, please also tell us who paid the salaries for these clowns to bring a prisoner to the guv's house for his massage.

Anonymous said...

Alternative medical treatment of the chief executive of a state or territory is an official function. Detainees in local facilities are local resources, absent an MOA or court order expressly declaring otherwise. Transportation of a detainee for temporary purposes while in custody is not a "release."

This was quite an efficient use of government resources, and certainly not worthy of the vengeful political attacks on the Governor. Fortunately, Judge Munson recognized this.

The Marianas Variety has proven itself so inaccurate, it is no longer worthy of receiving public funding to disseminate announcements to our people.

Anonymous said...

11:32 Where is it written that alternative medicine is an official function? Let's see this in writing. Detainees are local resources? This is bull sh__t. It's abuse of the rights of the prisoner and abuse of power to get a massage in the middle of the night. Just waking up a prisoner to do this is out of line. What are you smoking?

Saipan Writer said...

Anon 11:32 AM--my how a Judge's order makes idiots come creeping out to spew nonsense!

I like the part of the order reciting the facts. Even giving the Governor the benefit of the doubt over and over again, the Judge mentioned that no correctional officer was with the detainee at all times. Both Cabrera and Borja's affidavits confirm that she was left alone with the Governor repeatedly.

So we know we've been getting some lies with this story that she was, at all times, detained by the corrections officers. nuh-uh!

You can't seriously believe it is okay for a Governor to get a prisoner out of jail at 3 AM in the morning to come and give him a massage, whether it's a massage for pain in the back or for sex. Because it's not. It is not okay.

If it were okay, why would Ed Buckingham, the Governor's attorney using the name of Attorney General, have said in a public statement that he would have advised against the Governor doing this. If it were okay, and the Governor was in pain, surely his own attorney would have said go ahead.

It was not okay. It was wrong.

We all know that.
The Governor knows it. Ed Buckingham knows it. Mrs. Fitial knows it. Dolores San Nicolas knows it. And so do we, the people.

Whether Governor Fitial will ever have to pay the price in this world or not, we all still know--it was wrong.

The Saipan Blogger said...

The Fitial Administration is fighting this to hold onto power. The fact that they feel the need to troll the blogs and defend themselves anonymously illustrates their desperation. They're in trouble and they know it.

Anonymous said...

Wendy, you are normally very good at publishing court filings. Could you please upload Judge Munson's order so we can all read it? thanks in advance

Anonymous said...

I thought Ms. D. left the island. Must be bored on the mainland just can't stay away from this blog?

Wendy said...

Anonymous 2:38

The link to the Order is in the previous blog, first sentence. I'll put it in the side bar link too.

Anonymous 11:32

Everything you wrote is nonsense. The bullying by the Fitial Administration is reprehensible. The Marianas Variety is just one of the hundreds of people and businesses shoved around by thugs masquerading as officials. It isn't going to work this time. Neither are pathetic attempts at justifying outrageous acts.

Anonymous said...

The governor better get a better PR firm. His sucks. He is in deep trouble not just legal but with the public.

Anonymous said...

The Fitial administration is in trouble. The problem is they don't know it. Many newly appointed department heads (some skilled some not)have put their heads down and are trudging on trying to help and make a difference. In three months or so they will see how misled they were at the BBQ's and will fallout. Frankly, I don't know the answer. I supported Heinz and Arnold looking towards a change, but now I hear the FBI and OPA are leading a investigation into Arnold's dealings and rental contracts with the Water Task Force buildings on Lower Base. Like $13,00.00 per month "creative" rental agreements that's been going on for 8 years. WTF is this all about?
I love these islands, but why are we so screwed up?

Anonymous said...

Every single Chamorro politician is corrupt - it's that simple.

Anonymous said...

Not Tina. She's honest, albeit self-righteous, vengeful, and very prone to jumping to conclusions.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 8:07 and Anonymous 8:15:

You are both very wrong.

The Saipan Blogger said...

So are you saying that Tina Sablan is Batman?

Wendy said...

Well, she is HONEST -but the rest -please!

Anonymous said...

This is the critical language from the Multi-Agency Detention Services, Intergovernmental Agreement 05-01-0002 (U.S. Marshals Service, Witness Security and Prisoner Operations Division, Apr. 27, 2007 -- CNMI Dept. of Corrections, May 15, 2007):


[Page 5, paras. 2 & 3] "Receiving and Discharge of Federal Detainees

The Local Government shall not relocate a federal detainee from one facility under its control to another facility not described in this Agreement without permission of the Federal Government.

The Local Government agrees to release federal detainees only to law enforcement officers of the Federal Government agency initially committing the federal detainee (i.e., DEA, ICE, etc.) or to a Deputy United States Marshal (DUSM). Those federal detainees who are remanded to custody by a DUSM may only be released to a DUSM or an agent specified by the DUSM of the Judicial District."

[Page 10, para. 2] "Modifications and Disputes

Disputes, questions, or concerns pertaining to this Agreement will be resolved between appropriate officials of each party. Both the parties agree that they will use their best efforts to resolve that dispute in an informal fashion through consultation and communication, or other forms of non-binding alternative dispute resolution mutually acceptable to the parties."


Whether a "relocation", "temporary transfer", or "release", it seems likely that the Department of Corrections may have breached the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA), p. 5, paras. 2-3. However, DoC would undoubtedly have a good faith basis of exigent circumstances caused by the extraordinary pain suffered by the Governor's spinal stenosis aggravated by the scheduling of his official duties leading up to the reinauguration, particularly in view of the early morning hour and abysmal condition of CHC due to federal non-compliance with Covenant Section 701.

In any event, however, AUSA O'Malley clearly and indisputably breached the IGA, p. 10, para. 2. He did the exact opposite of what the IGA called for in these circumstances.

One wonders if he were even aware of the IGA. Probably not, as AUSAs are prosecutors, not USMS in-house counsel.

This is what happens when an aggressive prosecutor goes after a perceived target without being aware of all the facts and the law, and exactly why we have a Grand Jury to serve as a check on the USAO.

Without such zeal, of course, it is difficult to achieve such successes as the conviction of former Lt. Governor Villagomez. But without due consideration of due process and the rule of law, there is a grave danger of overstepping the bounds of the law, besmirching innocent reputations, and succumbing to the mortal sin of rash judgment, of which many in the CNMI and these blogs have been culpable over the past few weeks.

This will be handled the way it should have been from the beginning, privately by professionals far removed from the hurly-burly of politically motivated attacks.

If criminal action is warranted, so be it. But that is highly unlikely based on the information publicly available.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 10:44 The problem with your argument is that you think intelligent people can be deceived by double talk and ridiculous interpretations. So when a criminal decides to steal food, his defense can merely be that he was hungry and then it will be excused?

A backache should not block mental thinking. No person in their right mind, no matter how much pain he/she is in would even consider releasing a prisoner from jail. NO ONE! And what kind of DOC commissioner doesn't know this act was wrong? Ridiculous! So spin, spin, spin. Your argument is not sensible. Are you trying to tell us there was no other medical person on the entire island of Saipan that the governor could have sought help from? That is an outright lie.

Thank goodness Eric O'Malley and the federal officials are being aggressive in ensuring that laws are followed. The law was broken. To call releasing a prisoner a "dispute", or "concern" is ridiculous. The act of ordering a prisoner released breached public trust, is absolutely inexcusable and most likely is illegal. Anything in paragraph 10 paragraph 2 is probably addressing minors things and certainly not concerning releasing a prisoner who was ORDERED held without bail by the Court!

You do make one point. Obviously the CNMI officials and people like you need to see things in black and white. The federal government should revise the agreement and include such things as:

1.No one, not even the governor who thinks he is above the law, can order the release of a prisoner.
2. No prisoner will be woken up in the middle of the night to serve the governor or for any other reason.
3. Prisoners will not be called to service any CNMI official for ANY reason.
4. No federal prisoner may be taken from the facility without the written order of the federal court, or a US Marshal.
5. Being taken off of the premises of the detention facility is considered release whether or not a prisoner is accompanied by the DOC commissioner or any DOC employee.

Anonymous said...

No one was "released", but you are right that perhaps some additional language is called for in the IGA.

And thanks for fixing the broken link for me.


Anonymous said...

Sorry Wendy.

It is over. There will be no charges filed against Governor Fitial or anyone else. That's it.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 4:12

Regardless of whether charges are brought or not, as Tina said, it is far from over. There must be reform to ensure that laws are followed, that the safety of the public is maintained and to see that the rights of all prisoners are upheld. There should be consequences so that the governor understands that HE is NOT above the law; that laws, policies and rules apply equally to all; and that no unauthorized person can order that a prisoner be taken (not released, right?) from the jail.

I intend to continue to make members of the U.S. Congress (thankfully, my own is Alan Grayson) and the U.S. taxpayers aware of this outrageous situation. Since WE pay the taxes that support the programs in the CNMI, I do not feel my money is well spent on a detention facility run by a commissioner who furloughs her husband, who participated in a serious incident in Tinian that has been glossed over, who took a prisoner out of jail to give a massage to the governor (not released okay?). I want to know who paid for the officers and DOC Commissioner to escort this federal prisoner. I have the right to know if any of my federal tax money was spent so the governor could get a massage. Should I go on? Maybe mention abuse of federal tax dollars in other programs? Or do you get the point?

I am also contacting human rights groups to investigate. Are CNMI prisoners often woken up to serve government officials or is this the first incident?

You defenders of Fitial celebrate that the highest official of the land is not held to the same laws and rules that the people are. You defend the right of a governor to do as he pleases while he stands as a deplorable role model to the young people of the CNMI. You support a governor who cannot take responsibility for his actions and cannot apologize. You seem not to care that the CNMI is known as a place where there are two sets of rules, or worse you do nothing to raise the standards. You ignore the fact that the people are so desperate for a government job (because their leaders keep the wages so low that few people could make a decent living without one), that they feel they must defend disgusting acts and keep quiet about corruption to keep their jobs. You condone the use of a prisoner to service a governor. Celebrate while you can, because I truly believe that the party is almost over.

Anonymous said...

We are a welfare line of unqualified persons holding government jobs...or welfare with a job title.

Local people took a strategy of protectionism, a grave mistake, so over time, instead of improvement, they quickly became a culture needing more protectionism to keep the unproductive positions and political appointments.

As some of the younger citizens become more educated, theyjust choose to move so they don't need to invlve themselves with such a scam operation and people.

Anonymous said...

No, what those of us committed to the Rule of Law celebrate is separation of powers and when the law is applied evenhandedly.

In this case, Governor Fitial was singled out and treated unfairly by his political antagonists. A "decision" was made by "the educated class" that there was a "release" and that there was an "abuse of power" and then the usual denunciations followed. Indicted, tried, and convicted by those who hate him.

That is not what America stands for, and fortunately the truth has again prevailed.

No, there is no right to ask unlimited questions of our government, because that would be taking away from the right of the people to have a government that actually does something.

Government does not exist to "answer questions" posed by a vindictive few. It exists to serve the people and solve real problems -- not address "problems" existing entirely in the speculation, conjecture, hatred, and "questions" of the "educated class."

If the CNMI fails, it will be entirely the fault of such diversions and unfounded assumptions and questions.

Please get out of the way and let our elected leaders do their jobs.

You have already caused untold suffering among the guest workers forced home by the deteriorating economy, minimum wage increases, and immigration federalization.

Isn't that enough?!

Wendy said...

Anonymousi 8:19

You said, "In this case, Governor Fitial was singled out and treated unfairly by his political antagonists. A "decision" was made by "the educated class" that there was a "release" and that there was an "abuse of power" and then the usual denunciations followed. Indicted, tried, and convicted by those who hate him."

You are mistaken. The governor feels he can disobey a COURT order have his masseuse-prisoner brought to his house and people will accept that! It's a blatant abuse of power. Its ridiculous that his supporters act like it happens every day. In fact, even Judge Munson called it unprecedented! What he did was outrageous. He dealt with the situation very poorly by refusing to acknowledge his extreme lack of judgment and refusing to apologize. How juvenile to claim that because people challenge actions that they "hate" the person.

You said, "That is not what America stands for, and fortunately the truth has again prevailed." No, the truth has not prevailed. The judge only ruled that there would not be an evidentiary hearing. He left open a grand jury and criminal charges. Read the order again. And please read what attorney Jane Mack wrote on her site The Saipan Writer.

You said, "No, there is no right to ask unlimited questions of our government, because that would be taking away from the right of the people to have a government that actually does something." There have been are no legitimate answers to many questions that remain and the taxpayers absolutely have a right to question and to insist that laws are followed and to request reform. They have the right to know who paid for the DOC officials to accompany the prisoner to the governor's house.

You said, "Government does not exist to "answer questions" posed by a vindictive few. It exists to serve the people and solve real problems -- not address "problems" existing entirely in the speculation, conjecture, hatred, and "questions" of the "educated class."

You are really mistaken! First, people who demand that government official are held accountable, that laws are upheld and that officials do not breach public trust are not vindictive. You think the fact that the CNMI has a DOC Commissioner who allows a prisoner to visit a governor against a court order is not a problem? Really? What is this "educated class" you refer to? I seriously hope you are not working for the government!

You said, "If the CNMI fails, it will be entirely the fault of such diversions and unfounded assumptions and questions." What a ridiculous and childish statement! Failure will be because of actions or inactions of elected leaders and because of apathy and silence of the people who allow corruption, lies, manipulation, and self-serving behavior to trump the best interests of the people.

You said, "Please get out of the way and let our elected leaders do their jobs." Hello? Taxpayers and citizens should not be told to get out of the way.

You said, "You have already caused untold suffering among the guest workers forced home by the deteriorating economy, minimum wage increases, and immigration federalization. You are truly ignorant and you are a manipulator of facts. The economy is responsible for the loss of jobs and the CNMI economy failed long before federalization went into effect.

If you really believed what you have written, you would have signed your name, but I think I know who you are!

Anonymous said...

Noni 8:19 Your arguments are the same recycled arguments used for the last 25 years. Blame the people who demand answers. Shift focus. Try to make the people with valid questions look as though they are just hateful. Yep, basically try to shut up the people who could mean trouble for your game plan. What if the people are too smart now to be bullied and tricked. What will your game plan be? The truth prevails!

MrCoffee said...

oh, 8:19... I believe we shall coin a new term for your kind of stock spin, "Purina People"-- because you really, really think you can tell people that dog food is filet mignon.

captain said...

Noni 8:19, Wendy and other have stated rebuttal on your "assassin" statement. Nugh said as it seems that you are incapable of comprehension and understanding simple facts. (probably reading and writing comprehension)
That statement really sounds like something Stanley might say, but doubt that is him due to the vocabulary. Stanley can't put two syllables together.

Anonymous said...

Out of line but I have to ask this to satisfy my curiosity - Why does Stanley Torres had to put his middle name Mc Ginnis lately? He hates American though (but he hates aliens more). If you doubt what I say, read the newspaper archives.

Anonymous said...

McGinnis is Irish. He adopted the McGinnis to win votes from his estranged relatives.

Anonymous said...

thanks. that is so interesting. do you also know why is it that he is so anti alien?

Anonymous said...

Thank God for alcohol otherwise the Irish would rule the world.