Holes in a System

May 17, 2012

It is bad enough that yet another officer of the CNMI Department of Public Safety was arrested, but the case of Sgt. Vicente Tagabuel demonstrates the incompetence and lack of organization of the law enforcement agency and judiciary.

After being arrested in what appears to be more of a case of assault with a dangerous weapon (machete) than domestic violence, it was revealed that there were two outstanding bench warrants for Tagabuel. Apparently because he oversees the DPS Office of Summons and Warrants, he allowed his own warrants to be ignored.

The Saipan Tribune reported:
Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman issued two bench warrants against police sergeant Vicente O. Tagabuel –– one in 2003 for not appearing at a review hearing in a small claim matter and one in 2004 for not appearing at a status conference in a 2003 criminal case.

Wiseman only learned that the bench warrants were never served to Tagabuel after the sergeant was taken to court for a bail hearing in a domestic case on Tuesday afternoon.
In 2003 a warrant for a small claim matter was served and in 2004 a warrant for a criminal case was served. In that case Tagabuel failed to appear at a status conference. The charges involved with that case included, "assault with a dangerous weapon, assault, three counts of disturbing the peace, and two counts of criminal mischief for allegedly threatening Andrew Rapoulug with a machete on Dec. 29, 2002." The Tribune also states that his two appointed attorneys withdrew from the case.

Where is the follow-up? Does the court just issue a warrant and then never followup is a hearing or conference is missed? Are there no consequences for ignoring a warrant? How many other outstanding warrants exist? The incompetence is incredible considering that the man works at DPS. It's not like Saipan is a huge city and those being served can hide.

How incredibly mindless that a person with a previous arrest for a violent crime and a December 2011 arrest for stealing utilities would even be allowed to retain a position in the DPS.  Police officers should be upholding the laws and protecting the public; not breaking laws and terrorizing people with machetes!

Thelma S. Kapileo, a former DOC Juvenile Detention employee, is suing the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Melvin Faisao in his official capacity, DCCA, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, in his official capacity, and the CNMI government. The Marianas Variety reported:
Kapileo said Faisao, DCCA, and the commonwealth government violated CNMI statutory and administrative law and U.S. and CNMI constitutional due process protections.

Kapileo said Fitial and the commonwealth government failed to comply with CNMI constitutional mandates “for a functioning Civil Service by failing to duly appoint members to the Civil Service Commission, thereby interfering with plaintiff’s protected employment and due process rights.
Kapileo was an employee at an emergency shelter when in August 2011 Pedro I. Sablan was arrested for sexually abusing a female child at the DYS facility.

Previous to Sablan's arrest Felix Fitial, a former DOC guard at the Juvenile Detention Center was arrested for sexually abusing several female juveniles.

Kapileo was put on work suspension without pay in September 2011 while an investigation took place. Five days later, on Sept. 27, 2011, Kapileo was given a "Notice of Proposed Adverse Action for Termination” signed by DCCA Secretary Faisao.  The termination document stated:
“The specific reason for imposing this adverse action is due to your failure to effectively perform your task duties and responsibilities as an emergency shelter care taker. 
As an emergency care taker you are expected to ensure that all female clients are provided a safe and secure shelter. On at least one occasion, a female detainee was sexually assaulted while under your watch by a male emergency shelter caretaker. Your actions have resulted in serious violations of not only the Standards of Conduct and is clearly a dereliction of duty.”
Kapileo alleged that the CNMI administrative code was not followed by DCCA and DYS, as they failed to comply with the notice, hearing, and other procedures.

The article did not reveal if it was policy to allow a male caretaker (Pedro I. Sablan) to interact with the young  female clients or what ever became of his case. It also did not reveal whether or not other DOC personnel were also terminated for similar reasons after Fitial was arrested for sexual abuse of minors.


Anonymous said...

In regards to outstanding bench warrants, about 7 yrs ago I got a ticket in Saipan for speeding at a radar trap.(I live in Tinian)
I wanted to fight this ticket, so I went to the clerk of court in Tinian and did the paperwork to transfer the case to Tinian for trial.
NOT an initial plea but to save time and actually bring it to a trial.
I was told I would be notified of the date and time.
I had forgotten about this as time went by.
About 6 months later I had renewed my drivers license during this "waiting time",with no problem.
More than a year later I had to get a police clearance, which I did without incidence.
About two months after that police clearance I had to operate a road grader because my operator did not show up, a cop saw me and told me that there was a warrant out for my arrest and did I have $100.
I told him I could get it from the ATM close by.
He told to go get and he would meet me back at the machine.
Later that day he came back,took my money and had me sign some papers and went on his way after leaving me a court date the following Friday.
The warrant was for not appearing in Saipan court over a year prior.
After a heated argument in court with Judge Wiseman and being threatened with contempt charges by my words about the inefficiency of the court system and the DPS he transferred the trial to Tinian.
I went to trial with me as my own attorney, prior to trial I requested certification for the cop operating the Radar gun,I requested the calibration certificate of the Radar,I requested the certification of the Instructor that was licensed by the manufacturer to administer the training, etc.
At the trial the AG office and DPS could not provide any documentation.
I called the cop to the stand to find out that he did not appear,the Judge aske why and was told because it would cost the NMI Govt. too much, money to bring him to Tinian for this trial.
After another verbal confrontation on my part to the court about wasting my time and other derogatory things about the system costing me a $100 contempt of court charge by the Judge (for my stating my not so favorable opinions about the court, the AG office and Judicial system I got the case dismissed.(The Judge also admonished the AGO for wasting the courts time)

Two points here, one is the reinforcement of total inefficiency of this whole Judicial and DPS system and it's employees.

The other is if you get a ticket and live on another Island, get the case moved to you domicile, if nothing else just for make the Govt. spend money Rather than you having to travel and spend more money than the actual ticket to answer the charges.
Do not pay for any ticket, take it to trial and request the trial before your court hearing to save time.
But follow through and make sure they actually change the place of the trial.

Over the many years I have only lost two tickets.
Most of the time, with the ones that happen to appear where I live the cops will refuse to get on the stand,if they do it is very easy to make fools out of them from the traffic division.
I even had one cop quit on the spot, in the court room rather than get on the stand in front of all of the people in the gallery.

BTW the $100 was well spent and I would do it again.

Anonymous said...

Reading your experience with the police and court system reminds me of simliar problems I experienced in California. Nothing new here.