Marianas Variety

Last updateSat, 07 Dec 2019 12am







    Saturday, December 7, 2019-12:03:08A.M.






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Chief prosecutor vows to improve handling of child sexual abuse cases

CHIEF prosecutor John Bradley said the Attorney General’s Office is committed to improving the process of handling child sexual abuse cases.

“We want to make sure that the child is making a clear, independent outcry without any outside influence,” he added. “As the new chief prosecutor, I am working to improve that process.”

Last week, Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho dismissed with prejudice the government’s case against Jeffry Manarang Fernandez, 36, who was accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old girl in 2016.

In his order, Judge Camacho said the AG’s office violated Fernandez’s constitutional right and was “negligent or reckless by filing a clearly meritless interlocutory appeal that caused delay.”

On Friday, Judge Camacho dismissed with prejudice the sexual abuse of a minor charge against 45-year-old Joseph Epina.

The government said the victim was a 12-year-old girl, and the alleged incident occurred on March 12, 2016.

Assistant Public Defender Heather Zona had asked the court to dismiss the case against Epina for the violation of his right to a speedy trial.

“Epina has been forced to wait nearly three years in jail for his case to be resolved,” she noted.

Zona served as defense counsel of Fernandez and Epina.

Asked about the dismissal of these cases, Bradley said: “In both of those cases, which were filed well before I arrived, judges found that there was probable cause to proceed when charges were filed.”

He added, “It is not unusual for additional facts to come to light during the course of litigation that change the outcome of a case. Prosecutors have the very difficult job of reviewing any new facts and adjusting their recommendations. We don’t control those facts; we simply receive information from law enforcement and make the best decision we can with that information.”

Bradley said, “New facts resulted in the decision to end the prosecution in both cases — that is how our system of justice works.”

He said these types of cases involve important issues of how child victims are interviewed and how such cases are investigated.

He said “modern understanding of very young child victims suggests that they need to be treated differently than adult victims, especially during the interview stage. I want victims of crime to feel safe and protected when they bring accusations for investigation and prosecution. We are making good progress in that direction and we will continue to train in that area.”