February 18, 2014
According to the Saipan Tribune:
Govendo found Buckingham guilty of use of public supplies, time and personnel for campaign activities; use of the name of a government department or agency to campaign and/or express support for a candidate running for public office; misconduct in public office (related to campaign matter); conspiracy to commit theft of services (related to escort issue); misconduct in public office (pertaining to escort issue); conspiracy to commit theft service (related to use government counsels to represent him); and misconduct in public office (use of government counsels). Govendo acquitted Buckingham on one count of failure to produce documents or information (pertaining to Office of the Public Auditor’s request).While justice was served with the guilty verdict, this is a weak sentence for the damage that this man did while employed as the top law official of the CNMI. Unsupervised probation? At least the judge could have been sentenced to a few years of community service!
George Hasselback recommended a year of prison with no possibility of parole and a fine. This recommendation is more fitting to the crimes that were committed. A year in prison would have given Buckingham the time to sit and think about his actions.
It might be a good idea for the CNMI to enact a law that prohibits any person found guilty of a crime against the government, such as Buckingham, ex-Lt. Governor Villagomez, and numerous other former officials who have been convicted of crimes, from receiving or continuing to receive any CNMI retirement benefits. Why should criminals who inflicted harm to the people, stole from the government, and damaged the reputation of the CNMI be collecting money from the CNMI Government? Such a law could also state that fugitives from justice, like disgraced ex-governor Fitial, would also be ineligible to collect CNMI retirement benefits. I am not sure if such a restriction could be part of a sentence.
It would have been nice to have witnessed Buckingham receive the sentence. Was he still cocky and confident as the sentence was handed down? Does he still have the sense of entitlement that he flaunted from the time he was served the penal summons?
OPA Attorney George Hasselback should be commended for pursuing this case, the case against the participating DPS and CPA law enforcement officials, and of course, the case against ex-governor Benigno Fitial. Congratulations to him!
The next action for Buckingham should be disbarment. The CNMI Bar has a responsibility for ensuring that action is taken now that Buckingham has been found guilty.
The next action for the CNMI should be bringing ex-governor Benigno Fitial to justice.