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    Wednesday, November 21, 2018-11:03:28A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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NMI high court denies petition to reinstate charge against ex-DPS chief, police officer

THE local Supreme Court on Thursday denied the petition of the Office of the Attorney General to recharge or reinstate the charge of sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree against former Department of Public Safety Commissioner James C. Deleon Guerrero and former Police Officer Jesse Salas Concepcion.

Justice Pro Tempore F. Philip Carbullido issued the opinion with Associate Justice John A. Manglona and Justice Pro Tempore Timothy H. Bellas concurring.

James C. Deleon Guerrero

They also denied the Office of the AG’s request to order the presiding judge to recuse the trial court from further consideration of the case.

According to the justices,  Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho’s orders in 2016 that dismissed without prejudice the charges against Deleon Guerrero and Concepcion were reasonable and not erroneous.

Dismissal with prejudice means that the AG’s office can re-file the charges.

Judge Camacho found no probable cause to the charge of conspiracy to commit sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree, saying that the government had produced no evidence that Deleon Guerrero and Concepcion conspired to specifically have sex with a minor.

Judge Camacho also found no probable cause for the two counts of misconduct in public office, adding that the government again presented no evidence that the alleged offense occurred.

Saying that the government had failed to prove the essential element of the offense, the judge dismissed without prejudice the charge of sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree against Deleon Guerrero and Concepcion.

Judge Camacho ruled that “[e]ven taken in the light most favorable to the government, the Commonwealth failed to produce any evidence that any position of authority [on the part of the defendants] existed here….”

He said “using the Commonwealth’s flawed logic...would mean that every adult occupies a position of authority over an adolescent.”

The government then petitioned the high court for a writ of mandamus.

The AG’s office contends that Judge Camacho incorrectly performed his role in a probable-cause hearing.

But according to the justices, “because the [judge’s] order reflects the determination of a question of law, rather than a weighing of evidence, we are not firmly convinced the [trial] court has erred and deem the probable-cause determination not to be clearly erroneous.”

The justices said Judge Camacho based his analysis on a reasonable interpretation of the Legislature’s intent in passing the law against “adults [who] us[e] their positions of authority to coerce minor victims into having sex.”

The justices said Judge Camacho’s “order admittedly does not embody a pinnacle of clarity,” but they also acknowledged that “regardless of how much coercion, intimidation, or force was present, there was no role or position abused by Deleon Guerrero and Concepcion.”

The justices said Deleon Guerrero and Concepcion “encountered the victim solely for the purpose of receiving sex services, with no other pretext to their relationship.”

The high court’s opinion included Justice Manglona’s concurrence in which he noted the element of position of authority as it relates to the respondents’ — Deleon Guerrero and Concepcion — position as police officers.

“I highlight respondents’ role in law enforcement as the case before us involves serious allegations in which none other than the commissioner of DPS and a DPS officer engaged in sexual acts with a minor victim. And such an incident did not just occur once — Guerrero was alleged to have had sexual contact with the minor victim on two occasions, while Concepcion had sexual encounters with the minor victim on ‘at least four occasions.’ ”

Justice Manglona said he would “construe Section 1317(5) [of 6 CMC § 1317(5)] as according law enforcement officers a per se position of authority. In other words, I find [that] Sections 1317(5) and 1306 prohibit police officers’ sexual involvement with minors as a matter of law — regardless of whether the minor is aware of the officer’s occupation.”