June 12, 2015
George Hasselback, attorney for the Office of the Public Auditor, is asking Superior Court Associate Judge David Wiseman to impose a two-year sentence with no chance for parole, a ten year ban on government employment in the CNMI, and a fine of no less than $5,000 for conspiring to commit theft of services related to the great escape of ex-Attorney General Edward Buckingham. (See these related posts.) The office of the Attorney General recommended the maximum sentence of one year in jail for misconduct in office and a fine of an undisclosed amount.
Fitial's attorney Stephen Nutting asked the court for leniency:
“Subjecting Mr. Fitial to further punishment in the way of a term of incarceration as will be recommended by the government, would not serve the interests of justice, nor would it serve the interests of the commonwealth. Further punishment would only serve the demand for senseless retribution voiced by those few adversaries who either fail, or are unwilling to recognize all of the positive things Mr. Fitial did for the commonwealth while he was in the executive office and over the course of his long and distinguished career.
On behalf of Mr. Fitial, counsel respectfully recommends that if the court determines a term of imprisonment should be imposed, that it be suspended in its entirety, on the condition that Mr. Fitial pay an appropriate fine and restitution for any loss to the commonwealth which might be proven for the crimes he now stands to answer for.”A few adversaries? How about tens of thousands of foreign workers who suffered abused under this tyrant's reign? Consider all of the garment workers who were denied proper pay and benefits and suffered incredible injustices under the rule of officers Fitial and Inos in Tan's sweatshops over the span of decades.
Consider his role in preventing justice for the legal, longterm nonresident workers and their families. It was Fitial who solicited the support of high ranking Guamanian racists to manage to get the provision that would give the CNMI's legal nonresidents a pathway to citizenship removed from the CNRA. The legal, nonresidents workers who have lived and worked in the CNMI for 5, 10, 15, 20 or more years can thank Benigno Fitial for their current unstable and undeserved immigration status.
|Fitial at the anti-alien hate fest, May 2010 ©Itos Feliciano May 2010|
Nutting touted Fitial's service to the CNMI and his "long and distinguished career" in his ten-page report to the court. Yes, indeed, his care was "long and distinguished as a corrupt, self-serving politician.
Fitial's "long and distinguished career" is based in large part on unethical and sleazy deals made with lobbyist and former U.S. Congressman, including felon-lobbyist Jack Abramoff (read about some connections here) and his foot soldiers former Rep. Bob Schaffer (read story here), former Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (read story here), former Rep. Tom DeLay (read story here), former Rep. John Doolittle (read story here), former Chief of staff for former rep. John Doolittle and Abramoff deputy, Kevin Ring (read story here).
It is ironic that Nutting mentioned that Fitial served as Speaker of the CNMI House, as if that was a positive in considering leniency in sentencing. Fitial's "long and distinguished career" as a politician includes the nefarious, back door deal that he made with lobbyist-convicted felon Jack Abramoff to secure the office of Speaker of the House in 1999. Fitial was to get the speakership so he could ensure that the CNMI could continue to pay millions of dollars to Abramoff to lobby against alien workers' rights, to delay federalization of the minimum wage and to prevent implementation of federal immigration laws. Fitial's speakership scheme also involved former U.S. House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX), and Jack Abramoff's side-kicks convicted felon Michael Scanlon and Ed Buckham. (Read the story here, here and here.)
All in all, Abramoff drained over $11 million from the CNMI coffers. That didn't hurt the people of the CNMI who needed money for infrastructure, schools, health care and other programs?
“It is worth noting that out of [the] four events [contained in a May 1, 2014 information filed against Fitial in court], there were no claims made by the government that Mr. Fitial personally profited from any of the crimes charged. In fact, it appears that the only personal benefit he received from all the actions which supported the charges that were filed against him was the massage therapy he received from the former [detainee],” said Nutting.Who can forget Massage-gate when the governor, aided by CNMI officials from the Department of Corrections, released his masseuse to give him a late-evening massage at his mansion. Abuse of powers, much?
Did Fitial profit from his long career as a corrupt politician? If power is an advantage, then the answer is 'yes'. Most of Fitial's crimes involved using political power to advance his career or the careers of his political allies. He was on the CNMI payroll while serving in the CNMI House and while serving as Governor. His corruption and political reign resulted in a human cost. No one can put a price on that.
If I were to sentence Fitial, I would not excuse ill-health or consider supposed "service" to the people of the CNMI. I would consider all of the money that he drained from the CNMI coffers to advance a self-serving and racist agenda at the expense of innocent community members and nonresident workers and their families. I would sentence him to the maximum years of prison time without a chance of parole, 1,000 hours of community service to be conducted in the CNMI, a lifetime ban from government employment and I would revoke any retirement benefits that he receives from the CNMI.