August 6, 2012
The governor said he is in San Francisco. Most people who are served with a summons to appear in court would cancel their vacation. Not AG Buckingham. It seems that Attorney General Edward Buckingham is so arrogant and self-serving that he may actually take his entire 30-day vacation before returning to the CNMI to appear in court. That is if he even returns at all.
Buckingham's escape from the CNMI has been categorized as "bizarre" by Associate Judge David Wiseman. Indeed. Yesterday the judge issued a bench warrant for Buckingham's arrest after he skipped out on his scheduled court appearance. Bail was set at $50,000.
There are excellent articles in the Marianas Variety and Saipan Tribune detailing the court hearing yesterday. Perhaps the most in-depth coverage is on KSPN2 News where viewers can get details of what happened at the court hearing and also see coverage of the police obstructing justice and harassing KSPN reporter, Tina Sablan. They can also hear the voice of the Attorney General trying to defend breaking the law and obstructing justice in a phoned interview. His statements were mind-boggling. From his taped phone conversation with KSPN:
"As far as I'm concerned shame on OPA, shame on George Hasselback who has a personal agenda against me. You know let's get that stuff on the table. I think that the timing was -hey, I don't think it was accidental, but it was at the last second and it was intended to embarrassing and distracting and interfering. Basically what happened is one business hour of notice is what happened. You know this is like something that was done at 4:00 on a Friday afternoon. I had no intention of being in Saipan on Monday morning. I had family plans which I had arranged months earlier to be leaving the island and you know for someone on a Friday afternoon when it's known that I'm going to be leaving with no coordination to our office or to me it's not a question of why I would show up to defend something that happened two years earlier. Please."Shame on the OPA and Hasselback? No, shame on Buckingham! The OPA and AAG George Hasselback are doing their jobs. It cannot be easy to pursue criminal charges against the attorney general under an administration led by a corrupt governor, and in the existing poisonous political climate. Their efforts to enforce the law took courage and moral fortitude. The Attorney General's escape, on the other hand was cowardly and illegal.
In the KSPN interview Buckingham also personally attacked AAG George Hasselback and claimed that he filed the charges against him because of a personal venedetta. Buckingham's rant reminds me of high school students trying to defend themselves when they are caught in the act –shifting blame, talking too much, spewing out senseless arguments. This is not about a vendetta, it is about following the law.
Some of the words of this attorney general are stunning. Perhaps the KSPN tape will be used as evidence in the court. Since when do those being criminally charged get to choose when they are served!? If every person being served got to determine whether it was convenient or not to appear in court then the judicial system could not function. An attorney general does not understand this? Why does he think that he deserves any special treatment? How can the governor possibly keep this man in office?
AAG Hasselback made it clear that Buckingham deliberately avoided being served for 15 hours. The information states that Buckingham "knowingly obstructed, resisted, and/or opposed persons duly authorized to serve process issued by the Superior Court.” Hasselback stated that the AG knew the penal summons had been issued and that he was being sought by persons trying to serve him. The information states that he engaged "in a course of conduct intended to deceive, resist, and/or otherwise prevent those persons from effectuating service upon him.”
It was stated that Buckingham lied about his whereabouts or had others lie to prevent the investigators from serving the summons. The information states that the actions to avoid being served the summons resulted in Buckingham "seeking, suggesting, and/or accepting an armed escort consisting of members of the Department of Public Safety and/or the Commonwealth Ports Authority, operating publicly owned vehicles and being paid with public funds, that escort having the express purpose of taking Buckingham from his usual place of abode to the Saipan International Airport, through local and federal security checkpoints and ensuring that he boarded his flight away from the Commonwealth without being served a copy of the aforementioned summons.”
How can "escorts" be allowed through local and federal security checkpoints in an effort to obstruct justice? DHS? The costs of this escape, including personnel, vehicle operation and all expenses should be repaid to the CNMI coffers.
Judge Wiseman did not accept the excuses of Buckingham. He stated that "the court doesn't make accommodations for the social life of defendants." He also said that he knew of no statute allowing the Office of the Attorney General to represent a defendant in a criminal case.
The Saipan Tribune reported:
“The court cannot tolerate that conduct by any litigant especially if you are the Attorney General of the Commonwealth,” Wiseman said.
Wiseman said it is a blatant disregard of the lawful court's penal summons.
In an interview with the media after the hearing, Hasselback said the filing of additional charges against Buckingham was about his evasion of penal summons services and misconduct in public office.
The additional two charges bring to a total of seven misdemeanor charges against Buckingham. Hasselback said the allegations that the AG used Department of Public Safety police officers in evading service of penal summons were included in the obstruction charges.
“The matter of who, did, what to help Mr. Buckingham, what time and under what authority.those are all matters under current investigation,” he said.Governor Fitial said he was happy that Buckingham had withdrawn his resignation and will remain as the CNMI Attorney General. I wonder what the attorneys in the OAG think about having an attorney general who is a lawbreaker.
The governor refused to comment on the questionable and likely illegal activities of DHS Deputy Commissioner Aniceto Ogumoro, the Ports Authority Police Chief Jordan Kosam and other officer used as bodyguards in an attempt to help Buckingham obstruct justice by avoiding being served. It is assumed that the governor himself authorized the mafia-like ruffians to ensure Buckingham got safely on his plane. It is good to hear that the incident is being investigated also.