Dangerous Politics

March 23, 2010

A story published today in the Marianas Variety concerning prisoner Vicente T. Aldan, husband of the former Commissioner of the Department of Corrections, Dolores Aldan begs for some answers. The story suggests that someone may be awarding political favors to prisoners and convicted criminals.

The Variety reported:
As part of the plea agreement, Aldan had to surrender the firearm he used against his former domestic partner Ellis F. Barcinas.

Last month the Attorney General’s Office filed motion to set aside the plea agreement with Mr. Aldan and open a case against the him.

But yesterday, the AGO informed Superior Court Associate Judge David Wiseman that it was withdrawing its motion.

Wiseman noted that Mr. Aldan poked and pulled the handgun’s trigger many times at his victim.

“I don’t know,” Assistant Attorney General George Hasselback replied to Wiseman’s inquiry on the reason why the government was withdrawing its motion to open the case.

Hasselback told Wiseman that the court “has to take up [the matter] with [his] supervisor.”

Hasselback was referring to Chief Prosecutor Rosemond B. Santos, who did not reply to an e-mail from this reporter.
This is incredible! Why does he still have his gun? Shouldn't he be sentenced to more prison time for violating his plea agreement?

It was reported:
Hasselback said he was “not part of the decision process” when the AGO decided to withdraw its motion to open the case in Superior Court against Mr. Aldan.

“I was told to withdraw the motion,” Hasselback told reporters.

Mr. Aldan appeared in court under Department of Corrections custody. His counsel was not present.

The court advised him to contact his attorney for the next hearing.
Vicente T. Aldan was arrested for putting a gun to the head of his former common-law-wife and pulling the trigger. Ellis Barcinas of Tinian wrote an open letter to AG Buckingham that was published in the Saipan Tribune on December 15, 2009. The letter accused DOC Commissioner Aldan and some officers of violating the rights of Ms. Barcinas.

On July 2, 2009 Vicente T. Aldan pointed a handgun at the head of Ellis Barcinas who was his common law wife at the time. He pulled the trigger several times. Thankfully, the weapon did not go off.

Aldan was sentenced to 6 months in prison. According to the Saipan Tribune:
Associate Judge David A. Wiseman ordered Vicente T. Aldan to serve the six-month imprisonment without parole for assault.

Following a plea agreement, Wiseman placed Aldan on three years of supervised probation and required him to pay a $500 fine plus court costs and probation fees. He was also ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and surrender his firearm.

Wiseman allowed Aldan to begin serving the prison term on Dec. 7, 2009, at 8am at the Department of Corrections.
The defendant was also ordered not to have any direct or indirect contact with the victim. The letter from Ms. Barcinas to AG Buckingham questioned the actions of the Tinian DPS and the the DOC commissioner:
The Tinian DPS allowed the defendant to trespass on my property without my consent and tricked my daughter into believing that they had authority to enter my property. (I filed a complaint regarding this matter with the Tinian DPS, Case No. 09-000448.) On Nov. 11, 2009, between 10:30am and 10:45am, the Tinian DPS (officers Wally Villagomez and Eloy Fitial) came to my house (the scene of the July 2, 2009, shooting incident). At that time, I was not at my house but my daughter Vionna Aldan was outside the house. The officers got out of the car and held a piece of paper to Vionna, telling her that they have court papers and that they are there so that the defendant could show the officers where the gun was hidden. My daughter, noticing that the paper was official looking, just believed the officers that it was a search warrant or something like that. Besides, they told her it was papers giving them the right to be there. Pretty soon, the defendant got out of a rental car that came with the officers in the DPS vehicle and walked over to the side of the house. The Department of Corrections Commissioner, Dolores San Nicolas Aldan, also came out of the rental car and accompanied the defendant, Vicente Aldan. What is noteworthy here is that the Commissioner is also recently married to Vicente Aldan, the defendant.

My third complaint: The Tinian DPS and Corrections abused their authority. The Tinian DPS, namely the officers in this incident, lied to Vionna that they had authority to be on my property. The paper they used to pretend they had authority was the judgment and commitment order issued by the court. In fact, I was never served a copy of the order and it was only after I had gone to the Tinian DPS to file a complaint about this trespass incident that I was given a copy of the order. The order specifically prohibits the defendant from having any direct or indirect contact with me, and to surrender the gun he used in the incident. Nowhere on the order does it give the Tinian DPS any authority to be on my property without a search warrant. In addition, why was the Commissioner involved in this case if she is the defendant's spouse? Doesn't that present a conflict of interest on her part to be involved in protecting her interests, i.e. the interest of her spouse? She should not be involved in this case in any form. What is also interesting is that the case went swiftly from incident to adjudication, indicating that there's a strong likelihood that she exerted some influence due to her official capacity to get the defendant out of jail (so they can marry), etc? Did she also have some involvement in making sure that I did not know about the case, not made aware of the proceedings so that I can be heard, because it may delay the adjudication of the case? To what extent was she involved in getting the Tinian DPS to do her bidding, whatever that may be in reference to this case?
The Marianas Variety later published an article which stated that Commissioner Aldan "declined to comment" and the OAG has not responded to an inquiry regarding the complaint of Ms. Barcinas.

It was also reported that as Commissioner, Aldan allowed her husband weekend furloughs from prison. In January 2010, DOC Commissioner Dolores Aldan claims that her prisoner-husband does "not get any special treatment:
She said her husband is released from prison on weekends because he is among the many prisoners eligible for the home furlough program.

“We have a lot of inmates on furlough. This program has been.what.20 years old already,” said Dolores Aldan in an interview.

She said her husband, Vicente T. Aldan, is eligible for the home furlough program because his conviction-assault-is a misdemeanor.

“Me, I don't want problems. We are professionals here to handle our own discretion, judgment, whatever it is,” she said.
Holding a gun to a person's head and pulling the trigger three times must be a misdemeanor. Furloughs for prisoners is routine in the CNMI? Judge Wiseman sentenced Vincente Aldan to six months in prison without parole. So furloughs are allowed, but parole isn't. Citizens and tourists may wonder what exactly are "furlough" policies in the CNMI. How many prisoners are given furloughs, how often, and under what conditions?

Dolores Aldan said:
“Anything that goes on in here is all program. There is no such thing as VIP. As much as possible, I want to transfer him to the United States, Guam or Hawaii or anywhere that would take him away from my discretion,” she said.
Since the governor has replaced her as commissioner and reassigned her to his office I wonder does he still get weekend furloughs? Should a prisoner who still has possession of a gun be furloughed?

Isn't it ironic that the governor who attacked the USDOJ for not informing him that his driver/bodyguard was dealing ice from his car, condones his administration allowing prisoners who committed violent crimes with guns to be furloughed and to maintain possession of the weapon? But then again, he was the governor that has his imprisoned masseuse released from jail to give him a massage.


Anonymous said...

What about the victim's rights? Did the AG respond yet? This is another example of those connected to the inner circle being above the law.

Anonymous said...

The MV said,"Hasselback also told the court that even during the continuance of the hearing on March 31, 2010, he would not have the chance to provide an answer to the court.

Hasselback said he was “not part of the decision process” when the AGO decided to withdraw its motion to open the case in Superior Court against Mr. Aldan."

So an attorney is sent to court blind and not even knowing what is going on? Why should the court accept that?

The Saipan Blogger said...

aren't handguns illegal in CNMI? Good to know that law abiding citizens can't protect themselves from the criminals who have guns.

Anonymous said...

Happy Corruption D--, er, Covenant Day!

Anonymous said...

"aren't handguns illegal in CNMI? Good to know that law abiding citizens can't protect themselves from the criminals who have guns."

CNMI has absolutely no say on whether handguns are illegal or not. Supreme Court upheld the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms ANYWHERE in the United States

Handguns are legal they just need to be registered.

Anonymous said...

There is currently a case pending in the Supreme Court about whether the Second Amendment applies to states the same as it does to the federal government.

The 2008 case was from the District of Columbia, an instrumentality of the federal government.

Saipan Writer said...

Anon 7:59 AM is misinformed and spreading misinformation. S/he is part of the mass of people who misunderstand the 2nd amendment of the US Constitution.

As noted in Wikipedia, this is the MOST misunderstood right in the bill of rights. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

The right belongs to the state as well as the individual because of the need for "well-regulated militias." The state can regulate the availability of handguns for personal use.

Saipan Writer said...

BTW, the issue of whether states can constitutionally ban handguns in on appeal to the US Supreme Court. So far, the 7th Circuit has said that states can do just that.


Saipan Writer said...

And on the blog post--this is politics in action at the level of criminal prosecutions. And it is scummy.

George Hasselback should be commended for being so blunt and clear about the limits of his authority; and his unwillingness to make excuses for the decision.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it was refreshing to see that he just told the truth to the judge and made no excuses.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, it's frightening that Buckleham and his new "chief" will let a Fitial crony who attempted to murder his ex-partner keep his gun. If that gun is later used to kill someone, Rosemond and Ed might actually have to defend themselves in a lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

Absolute immunity.

Anonymous said...

While D.C. can't ban all handguns, it can currently enact reasonable limits on gun ownership designed to promote public safety, including registration procedures (fingerprinting, vision tests, background checks and other requirements), a ban on most semiautomatic weapons, and other limitations.


This case involves the same guy who won the Supreme Court case challenging the former D.C. outright handgun ban, so he'll undoubtedly appeal today's ruling, too, at least to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

But it raises hope that the CNMI's laws could be upheld as reasonable and appropriate given the circumstances of life on a small, geographically isolated island with its own unique history.

The McDonald v. Chicago case, cited by Jane, about applicability to the states will certainly have an effect here once it is decided by the Supreme Court no later than the end of June.