Federal Judge Questions CNMI Sexual Registry Policies

August 17, 2010

For years many have questioned the CNMI's weak laws, lack of enforcement, lenient sentences, and the noncompliance with a sexual offender registry.  Now a federal judge has also expressed dismay with noncompliance.   The Marianas Variety reported that visiting Judge David O. Carter of the California District Court was surprised that  Henry San Nicolas and another defendant were not registered as a sexual offenders.

From the Marianas Variety:
“Why isn’t the [CNMI] imposing these restrictions or safeguards?” Carter asked.

He noted that “the federal court only takes in a small number of defendants, and in the last two weeks, I’ve seen this continuing problem: non-registration.”

Carter said the registration requirements “are really in the best interest of the CNMI.”

“It’s not my jurisdiction,” Carter said, adding that he is leaving the matter “to [his] able [local] colleagues.”

“They’re the ones who safeguard the citizens of this wonderful island. They have the greatest interest in making certain that people are registered,” Carter said.

He said he was concerned “because so many of these [cases] are coming through the federal court, and we’re seeing this lack of registration time and time again. I trust we’ve got very competent [local] judges who are now aware of the problem and will resolve it from this point forward. Let’s leave it at that.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney James J. Benedetto explained, in an e-mail to the Variety, that “the duration of the registration requirement depends on whether one has been convicted of a Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3 offense, with Tier 1 being the least serious, and Tier 3 being the most serious. If someone has been convicted of Tier 1 crimes, then they have to register for 10 years. Tier 2 requires registration for 25 years (Tier 2 and 3 include crimes like kidnapping, child exploitation, sex trafficking of minors, child prostitution, using a child to produce child pornography, etc.).”

Benedetto added, “Further complicating things is that there are local laws requiring registration of offenders, and they have separate requirements, separate from the federal registration law.”
At the San Nicolas bail modification hearing held last week, the defendant's pre-trial release was revoked and he was turned over to the Federal Marshall to be returned to prison without bail because he failed to disclose previous arrests including a sexual assault of a minor.

Henry San Nicolas, was an employee of the Tinian Mayor's Office who was assigned to work at the Tinian Public Library at the time of his arrest in May 2010.  He was arrested for distribution of methamphetamine (ice). He was released on $25,000 bail, but U.S. Probation Officer Grace Flores filed a "Petition for Action of Conditions of Release" on July 28, 2010 exposing that the defendant failed to disclose previous arrests involving sexual abuse of a minor:
On May 28, 2010, at a Bail hearing, the defendant was ordered released under pretrial supervision with the following conditions: execute a $25,000 unsecured bond; submit to the third party custody of Ms. Sheila Dela Cruz (common-law wife) and Ms. Elisa San Nicolas (mother); surrender passport and obtain no new one; not leave Saipan or Tinian without written permission from the court; avoid contact, directly or indirectly, with any persons who are or who may become a victim or potential witness in the subject investigation or prosecution; refrain from possessing a firearm, destructive device, or other dangerous weapon; refrain from any use of alcohol; refrain from use or unlawful possession of a narcotic drug or other controlled substance; submit to any method of testing required by the pretrial services officer for determining whether he is using a prohibited substance; participate in a program of inpatient or outpatient substance abuse therapy and counseling if deemed advisable by the pretrial services office; refrain from obstructing or attempting to obstruct or tamper with the efficiency and accuracy of any prohibited substance testing; participate in the home confinement program under the curfew component of the program (curfew from 6pm to 7am); be with one of his third party custodians except during work when he will be monitored by a supervisor who will contact the probation officer when he leaves; not leave his residence on weekends except in the company of a third party custodian and with notification to the U.S. Probation Office; and be allowed to travel between Saipan and Tinian without written permission from the Court, and only upon notification to the U.S. Probation Office. 
After the defendant's release on May 28, 2010, the U.S. Probation Office received the defendant's criminal record. These records had not been available prior to this date. A review of the records revealed that the defendant had two previous arrests for criminal behavior which he had not disclosed to the probation officer. 
The record revealed that on September 19, 1999, the defendant had been arrested for Assault and Battery, in violation of 6 CMC § 1202. This case was not forwarded to the CNMI Attorney General's Office for prosecution. Also, on February 2, 2001, the defendant was arrested for Sexual Abuse of a Child, in violation of 6 CMC § 1311. The probation officer later learned that on February 21, 2001, the defendant was charged in the Superior Court of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands with three counts of Sexual Abuse of a Child and two counts of Oral Copulation with a Minor. The defendant pled guilty to one count of Oral Copulation with a Minor and the remaining charges were dismissed. On March 13, 2002, the defendant was sentenced in Superior Court Criminal Case 01-0077 to two years imprisonment (all suspended), two years of probation, 100 hours of community service, a $250 fine, $25 assessment fee, and $100 probation fee. 
On June 11, 2010, during a visit to Tinian, the defendant was asked by U.S. Probation Officer Brunson why he failed to disclose his two previous arrests and previous conviction and he stated that he "forgot." 
The probation officer further discovered that the defendant is not registered with the CNMI Sex Offender Registry, which requires offenders convicted of sexual offenses against minor victims to remain registered for a period of ten years from the date the person is placed on probation. The probation officer notes, however, that the defendant's criminal judgment does not order him to comply with Sex Offender Registry requirements. Additionally, upon release in the instant offense, the defendant was assigned to work in an administrative position at the Tinian Public Library. 
Recommendation: It is respectfully requested that the Court issue a Summons for Henry San Nicolas to appear at a hearing scheduled by the Court, and during that hearing, he be held to answer or show cause why pretrial release in this case should not be revoked, or conditions modified, or for any matter for which the Court may deem just and proper.
Why isn't his name on the sexual offender registry? How many other sexual offenders failed to register or were not registered by law enforcement officials?

I cannot understand how a person could "forget" that he sexually abused a young teenager. According to the Saipan Tribune San Nicolas sexually abused a 15 year old teenage girl "on four occasions from January 2001." From the article:
From her interview with the victim, the investigator learned that the suspect arranged for a meeting with the girl last January by calling her on the phone.

The victim further told an interview she had sexual intercourse with the suspect four times while aware that she was still a minor. She added that the suspect would pick her up to engage in sex and oral copulation and afterwards would drive her home.

She also confessed that she did not want to have sex with Mr. San Nicolas since he used to go out with her best friend. But the suspect reportedly assured the victim it was over between him and her best friend.

Police also sought information from the victim’s best friend and admitted that she and the suspect only kissed at the time they were dating.

The suspect, in an interview with investigators, admitted to having sex with the minor three to four times.
Why would the Tinian Mayor's Office assign a convicted child molester to work at the Tinian Library? Seems like a seriously dangerous and unwise placement, to say the least.

In August 2010, San Nicolas changed his plea from innocent to guilty for "Distribution of a Controlled Substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), punishable by 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C)." The plea agreement was filed with the U.S. District Court of the NMI on August 13, 2010. He is scheduled to be sentenced on November 16, 2010.

According to the Marianas Variety, the judge also questioned why another alleged ice dealer, Edward Quichocho, was not listed on the sexual offender registry.  (I could not locate any case or news where he was arrested for a sexual assault.) From the Variety:
Former Tinian Commonwealth Utilities Corp. resident director Edward Quichocho, who was placed on probation after pleading guilty in an “ice” case, may still be subject to the registration requirements of the local law, “but we were only dealing with the requirements of the federal law,” Benedetto said.

Quichocho’s attorney Michael W. Dotts, said: “The federal statute is complicated and Judge Carter asked the parties in the morning to come back in the afternoon to address whether the statute applied to Mr. Quichocho. The consensus in the afternoon was that the statute did not apply to Mr. Quichocho so it was really a non-issue.”
Quichocho was Tinian's CUC Resident Director when he was arrested in April 2008 one count of distribution of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) and one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. He pleaded guilty to one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. On August 13, 2010 the judge sentenced him to five years probation and two years supervised release.


Captain said...

I also could not find any info on Quichocho (over the years).
In Tinian we all knew he had a conviction involving child molestation when he was head of the CUC water.
His employment was questioned then and again when he was appointed as "acting" head of CUC, Tinian.
This is common in Tinian for records to be "lost" or "not found" due the placement of incompetent people in various Govt positions like the clerk of court.
Also depending who is running the Tinian DPS and the detectives, it is easy for any case to be "tossed" or records to "misplaced, even out of the Clerk of Court office files.

Only in the last few years has the court been "tied" in to Saipan by computer (when operational)
BTW, I am curious who the Judge was in the San Nicholas case that let him go on the other charges. Also what years and specifically what charges and sentencing (if any)for Quichocho, also the Judge.

I wish I had the time and resources to go back and make a list all of the Judges and the sentences for these repeat offenders that keep getting "let loose" with a "time served" and a "letter".
Along with the parolees.

Also in the case of restitution and community service, exactly how many have completed this.
Sometimes when I have time to kill, I go and sit in the court room and listen to the trials etc. It is amazing how many of these criminals have been arrested time again and have not ever completed any of their requirements.

Anonymous said...

Well, I do agree and it is predictable that some people would be left off the list. Is it the friends of the Governor? Probably not. Even here the downside of intentionally leaving someone off the list would be calling more attention to the person when discovered. It's a bag of cats even for here, and they do try to get away with alot
No, I suppose the vast majority of the people that are left off the list (and I hope it is not many) is probably just oversight and lost records. Remember, the registry was just realeased: BAM! I would suppose you have the same things happen when this type of information is released.
I am not saying it's right, and I hope they get a handle on it. It's good we at least have a list to look at and correct. If in six months we have people that have been identified that are still not on the list I would be very concerned and demand answers. Until then, we point out the problems and hold their feet to fire for fixing. Thanks, Wendy, for keeping the issue in the forefront.