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Last updateThu, 13 Dec 2018 12am

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    Wednesday, December 12, 2018-12:08:13P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Rota mayor: We will be OK

ROTA Mayor Efraim Atalig on Thursday pled not guilty to corruption charges that stemmed from his off-island trips with his girlfriend.

“I am confident that we will be okay,” Mayor Atalig said when asked for a statement after his arraignment in federal court.

Evelyn Atalig, right, exits the federal courthouse on Thursday. Also in photo are Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig and attorney Dennis Nie, back turned to the camera. Photo by Bryan Manabat

He said he is confident he will prevail against the U.S. government’s allegations.

The Rota mayor and his girlfriend Evelyn Atalig are accused of taking CNMI government-funded trips to California, Palau, Guam, and Saipan under fraudulent pretenses.

At the arraignment, Mayor Atalig, through his lawyer Dennis Nie, waived the reading of the superseding indictment and pled not guilty to the additional corruption charges filed by the U.S. government against him. 

Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona set the jury trial for Jan. 15, 2019. The pre-trial motions deadline is on Dec. 20.

Judge Manglona said the mayor’s pre-trial release conditions will continue. At the request of the federal prosecutor, the judge also reminded the mayor not to contact potential witnesses.

Attorney Dennis Nie asked the court how his client can gather information for his defense if he cannot talk to any potential witness.

Judge Manglona replied that the prohibition against contacting potential witnesses is directed against the mayor, “but this will not impede the attorney or investigator to reach out to potential witnesses for pre-trial preparation.”

As for Evelyn Atalig, Judge Manglona continued her initial appearance/arraignment hearing to Monday, Dec. 10, 2018 at 11 a.m.

Evelyn Atalig’s attorney, Steven Pixley, asked for a continuance as he was currently off-island handling a trial before an administrative law judge in the District Court of Guam. The stipulation was concurred by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric O’Malle.

The superseding indictment charged the Ataligs with conspiracy, wire fraud, theft from program receiving federal funds, and two counts of false statements.

From Feb. 2018, to Aug. 7, 2018, according to the superseding indictment, Efraim Atalig, acting in his official capacity as Rota mayor, arranged government-funded trips from Rota to San Diego, California; Saipan; Palau; and Guam, for himself and other persons, including Evelyn Atalig, by means of false claims.

The initial indictment charged Mayor Atalig with only one count of wire fraud for the Guam political rally. He  pled not guilty to the charge.

He and seven of his resident directors were also charged in Superior Court with theft and misconduct in public office.

The mayor, who won a second term in last month’s elections, pled not guilty to the local court charges.