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    Sunday, January 20, 2019-8:35:28A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Judge Camacho recuses self from hearing habeas corpus petition

SAYING he was persuaded by the Office of the Attorney General’s arguments in a “well-written and well-researched motion,” Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho disqualified himself from hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by a rape suspect.

In his order, Camacho noted that “a judge entertaining a habeas petition that challenges his or her decisions made in a criminal case can appear to be sitting in ‘appellate review’ over his or her own ruling.”

The petition for a writ of habeas corpus was filed by Romeo Aquino Saimon, 44, who was charged with two counts of sexual assault in the second degree.

Saimon and three other men were accused of raping a very intoxicated woman.

Judge Camacho vacated the hearing he scheduled for Dec. 5 and returned the case to  Presiding Judge Robert Naraja for reassignment to another judge.

In his motion, Assistant Attorney General Hessel Yntema said Judge Camacho must disqualify himself from hearing Saimon’s petition because the circumstances create the appearance of impropriety.

 Yntema said Judge Camacho’s orders regarding bail are among those challenged by Saimon.

 “Federal courts of appeal…were unanimous in holding that a federal judge presiding over an application for writ of habeas corpus predicated on his or her rulings or orders as a state judge or justice creates the appearance of impropriety, and thus recusal or disqualification is mandatory,” Yntema said.

 In the case of Saimon’s petition, Yntema said, “the judge is in effect sitting in review of the constitutionality of his…own rulings. A reasonable person would conclude that the circumstances create the appearance of impropriety. As the Seventh Circuit points out, by virtue of the fact that Judge Camacho is one of the judges responsible for setting petitioner’s bail, he is, according to petitioner, ‘complicit in sending [petitioner] to prison in violation of [petitioner’s] constitutional rights.”

Yntema said Saimon specifically alleges that Judge Camacho’s bail order violates the defendant’s rights to due process under the 14th Amendment.

Saimon’s petition named the CNMI government, CNMI Department of Corrections Commissioner Vincent S. Attao, and CNMI Department of Public Safety Commissioner Robert A. Guerrero as respondents.

Saimon, through attorney Robert  H. Myers Jr., asked the Superior Court in August to modify the cash bail of $50,000, which was imposed by Judge Camacho, and that he be released to a third-party custodian.

Associate Judge Kim-Tenorio denied the request but stated that she would allow the defendant to be released if he would post a property bond or 10 percent of the $50,000 bail.

 Myers said  Saimon has no prior criminal record yet his bail was set at an amount he could not afford.