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    Tuesday, March 26, 2019-5:03:50P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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DPS policy on use of force is constitutionally adequate, says AG’s office

THE CNMI government, represented by the Office of the Attorney General, has asked the federal court to dismiss the remaining claims of an inmate who alleged that police officers used excessive and unreasonable force before arresting him in Dec. 2016.

Hessel Yntema, assistant attorney general, told Variety that the Department of Public Safety’s policy on the use of force is consistent with constitutional norms.

“Part of our defense is that our policies and procedures are constitutionally adequate if not more than adequate,” Yntema added.

Last month,  District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona dismissed DPS from the lawsuit of Vincent San Nicolas Norita, stating that the department lacks the capacity to be sued.

The judge stated that only three issues remain: a) the claim against the Commonwealth and official capacity defendants, insofar as it is for injunctive relief only; b) U.S. constitutional claims against Officers Carlo Evangelista and Stanley Patris, in their personal capacities for injunctive relief only; c) CNMI constitutional claims against Evangelista and Patris in their personal capacities.

Norita sued DPS, DPS Commissioner Robert A. Guerrero, in his official capacity, Officers Patris and Evangelista in their personal and official capacities, and unnamed defendants for violations of constitutional rights, for use of excessive and unreasonable force, assault and battery resulting in serious bodily injury after a high-speed pursuit.

A video posted on Facebook showed a police officer, using what appeared to be a baton, repeatedly hitting two individuals — Norita and his passenger, Joe Ada — while they lay on the ground near an overturned sedan.

Norita also sued the defendants for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.

Through his counsel Rene C. Holmes, Norita asked the district court for an award of damages for pain and suffering and emotional distress in an amount to be proven at trial.

Norita also sued for punitive damages in an amount to be proven in trial.

In his answer to the remaining claims against the Commonwealth, Assistant AG Yntema denied all the allegations.

He said DPS, “at all times material to this action, had reasonable cause and acted properly in valid law enforcement activities.”

Yntema also said the complaint was barred by the statute of limitations, and that Norita was

very aware of the risks involved in the high-speed chase incident.

 Norita “voluntarily assumed all the risks incident to the activity engaged in at the time and place mentioned in the complaint, and the loss or damage, if any, sustained by plaintiff was caused by those risks.”

Yntema asked the court to dismiss the complaint with prejudice.

Variety learned that Patris and Evangelista have retained private lawyers to represent them. They  will file an answer to Norita’s claims in March 2019.

In May 2017, Norita, then 32 years old, pled guilty to 18 traffic offenses that included speeding, reckless driving, fleeing a police officer, theft of vehicle, and tampering with a vehicle.

Superior Court Judge Joseph Camacho sentenced Norita to nine years of imprisonment, to be served day for day without probation.