Ayuyu Case Gets Battier

March 27, 2013

Senator Juan Ayuyu was arrested on misdemeanor charges for smuggling federally protected  fruit bats. Later he was arrested on felony charges for conspiracy to obstruct justice, witness tampering and attempted destruction of evidence. After the felony charges, he had his bail revoked and was ordered to prison where he was charged with possession of a cell phone.

It was rumored that an attorney may have assisted in providing him with the cell phone.

Now Ayuyu's attorneys, Joaquin and Victorino Torres have been disqualified from representing him. It seems that the smuggled fruit bats may have been intended for the attorney Joaquin Torres or their brother Senator Ralph Torres.

 Ayuyu's cell pone records of October 17, 2010, the day the smuggled bats arrived on Saipan indicate numerous calls between the    made to and from the defendant and attorney Joaquin Torres and Senator Torres.  Conveniently, the Torres brothers cannot recall the phone calls or conversations.

District Court Judge Ramona Manglona has ruled that the Torres attorneys and law firm be disqualified from representing Ayuyu because of clear conflict of interest. Joaquin Torres could be called to testify in the case.

From the order:
The charges in these cases arise from an alleged conspiracy to unlawfully transport Mariana fruit bats, a threatened species, from Rota to Saipan on October 17, 2010. The Government has proffered evidence of the following: that fruit bats were discovered in a box belonging to Defendant and bound for Saipan on a Freedom Air flight from Rota; that Defendant admitted to a Freedom Air employee that the box was his and told the employee that the bats were “for a lawyer on Saipan”; that Defendant then called Ralph Torres once from Rota; and that soon after Defendant arrived in Saipan, Ralph called Defendant twice, then called his brother Joaquin and spoke with Joaquin for more than five minutes, then called Defendant once more. In a voluntary interview with Government agents, Ralph stated he cannot remember any specifics about the phone calls.    
. . . The sequence of telephone calls after Defendant Ayuyu’s flight from Rota to Saipan on October 17, 2010, raises an unacceptable risk that Joaquin Torres may become an unsworn witness. The Government may introduce the subscriber logs to support testimony by the Freedom Air employee that Defendant told him the box of fruit bats was for a Saipan lawyer. The logs show that shortly after landing on Saipan, Defendant called Ralph Torres; Ralph then called Joaquin Torres, who is a Saipan lawyer and – up until now – Defendant’s lawyer. 
The prospect of jurors’ gazing over to the defense table and wondering what Joaquin Torres would say if he were called to the stand, is intolerable.  From the representations that Joaquin and Victorino Torres made as officers of the Court, it cannot be said at this time that there is an actual conflict of interest. However, the risk that such a conflict will develop is unmistakable. Joaquin Torres has not stated that he affirmatively recalls the five-minute conversation with Ralph on the date in question and that it had nothing to do with the allegations in this case. Rather, he says he does not remember the phone call. 
Although Joaquin and Ralph Torres apparently do not now remember the content of that conversation, it is quite conceivable that the press of trial will jog their memories and give rise to a claim of attorney-client privilege. If the Government finds itself having to call Ralph to rebut testimony by defense witnesses (including by the Defendant, if he chooses to testify), the risk of a conflict hindering cross-examination is real.
The upcoming trial's exhibit list contains Ayuyu's cell phone records. Many of the documents in this case are sealed.

The judge's order:

Effective April 1, 2013, Senator Ayuyu's salary and subsistence allowances will finally be suspended. Ayuyu made the request in a letter to the Senate Rules and Procedures Committee. The Senate members voted 8 - 0 to accept the request.  It is deplorable that the Senate did not suspend his salary immediately when he was sent to prison because he was considered a threat to the community. Why should taxpayers be paying a Senator to sit in jail?


Anonymous said...

Conspiracy to smuggle bats? Good grief! How many millions has the Federal government spent on this? The Russian and Chinese mafia have taken a hold in the CNMI and the FBI is focusing on fruit bats that were never even smuggled? Is anyone surprised that his lawyers were the ones who wanted the bats? No. Are the Feds gonna lock up Ayuyu for 25 years for a conspiracy to capture some bats and continue to let the Russians launder millions through their on island businesses? The bats are getting more attention than the CWs who are endangered of getting deported!

Wendy Doromal said...

Yes, it's batty. Still the threats, witness tampering and obstruction of justice are serious and must be dealt with, especially considering Ayuyu is an elected official.

I totally agree that the federal government should concentrate on some other crimes.

the profit said...

I think Chinese are 100x more of a criminal threat to the peace in the CNMI and I would agree that the feds should focus on containing their criminal activity.