CNMI Attorney General Defends Questionable Fishing Trip

July 8, 2013

KSPN reported that CNMI Attorney General Joey San Nicolas defended Chief Prosecutor Shelli Neal's decision to engage in a five-day fishing trip with Ambrosio Ogumoro, a criminal defendant that she was charged with prosecuting.

San Nicolas said that he is confident that Neal "did not violate any rules or compromise any investigations" in taking the trip on the boat owned and captained by Ogumoro. That statement should be insulting to the public.  I doubt that the majority of CNMI people are confident that Neal made a wise decision. I also doubt that the majority of the people are confident in the ability of the Office of the Attorney General to determine right from wrong.

San Nicolas also rejected the idea of terminating Neal. He stated that he hired her for her professionalism and her experience and he "trusts her judgment."

In the KSPN interview the Attorney General said that Neal paid her own way for the trip to Pagan. Just the fact that she is paying a criminal that she was charged with prosecuting suggests blatant impropriety.

This incident is déjà vu. What is it with the CNMI Office of the Attorney General? How can the public have confidence in this office when its high level attorneys or the Attorney General himself brush aside obvious conflicts, oversteps or unethical acts? The pattern will only be broken when the public demands a more ethical office.

I feel the same disbelief with the AG's official reaction to this incident that I felt when ex-Attorney General Buckingham defended ex-governor Fitial's decision to have a masseuse taken from a jail cell to be brought to his mansion to give him a massage.

Also yesterday Attorney General San Nicolas announced that he had recused the OAG from prosecuting Ambrosio Ogumoro and his three alleged co-conspirators who were accused of conspiring to help ex-AG Buckingham avoid being served a penal summons. The Supreme Court had ordered a hearing to determine the OAG's disqualification from the case.  San Nicolas appointed the Office of the Public Auditor's legal counsel George Hasselback to serve as the special prosecutor for the case.  Hasselback has been working on the case since August 2012.

According to KSPN, San Nicolas said that his appointment of OPA attorney Hasselback is unrelated to the Neal scandal. Regardless, that appears to be a wise move, especially since Neal's fishy trip would most likely have been brought up if the court hearing had proceeded.

Odd too, is the fact that there is no coverage of this important story in either of the CNMI's two newspapers, the Saipan Tribune and Marianas Variety. Kudos to KSPN for covering this story!


Anonymous said...

Interesting that Shelly paid for her trip.
Ogumoro is not a licensed Captain from my and others knowledge.
His boat is not a licensed charter boat and he is taking people for hire?
The US Coast Guard should get involved in this and other deals as he can be prosecuted by the Feds again and this time it could land him jail time.

But then again, this is the CNMI where anything goes and for these type of offenses the Feds usually just turn in the other direction.
There is so much other things going on that it is a full time job just to attempt to pick up on what is worth prosecuting.

Anonymous said...

One would wonder if there is more going on between them than just this trip.