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Fanihi poaching case defendants ask court to reschedule jury trial

AS they need more time to effectively and adequately prepare a defense, Mariana fruit bat poaching case co-defendants David A. Santos and Albert Taitano asked the federal court to move their jury trial from April 17 to Oct. 7, 2013.

Through their counsels Bruce Berline and Michael Dotts, the defendants explained that the requested continuance “outweighs the best interests of the public and the defendants in a speedy trial and thus will serve the ends of justice.”

For the defendants, there is extensive discovery which includes numerous forensic tests and analysis on the evidence collected.

There were 33 individual forensic reports generated.

The reports included — “without limitation” — reports on firearm/toolmark identification, multiple veterinary medical exams and autopsies conducted on the bats and other animals, fingerprint analysis, morphology, DNA analysis, extraction of pictures from memory cards, cameras and compact discs, chemical analysis, tissue and blood analysis.

The defendants said they filed various motions including one for a full evidentiary hearing.

They also requested the hiring of consultants and experts, at government expense, to assist them in the review of the forensic tests and reports contained in the discovery and to assist during the Daubert hearing and jury trial.

For the defendants, the experts would not be available for the trial on April 17.

They said that even if the experts were available on that date, they would not be prepared for the trial.

The defendants also anticipated filing additional motions once the court approves the experts.

Santos and Taitano also asked the court for more time to obtain material eyewitnesses and consult with these witnesses in preparation for pre-trial motions, a Daubert hearing and the jury trial.

For the defendants, failure to grant a continuance would deprive them of expert assistance and their constitutional right to present a defense.

“Such deprivation of defendants’ constitutional rights would result in a ‘miscarriage of justice,” said Berline and Dotts on behalf of their clients.

They said the government’s use of extensive forensic evidence makes this case complex.

Santos and Taitano, along with Adrian Mendiola, were indicted on Sept. 16, 2010, for violation of the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act.

Count One is possession of a threatened species; Count II is violation of the Lacey Act; Counts Three and Four are taking of a threatened species; Count Five is wildlife taken or possessed in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

Mendiola was sentenced to 90 days behind bars and six months supervised release after he was convicted of unlawful possession of the Mariana fruit bat, an endangered species.

Meanwhile, the federal government granted the prosecution’s motion to dismiss without prejudice the charges against Santos and Taitano.

A new indictment was filed under seal on Sept. 24, 2012 — four years after the alleged poaching activities — alleging that Santos and Taitano, along with others, hunted fanihi at the Sumac roost.

The defendants were charged with two counts — conspiracy to take a threatened species and taking of a threatened species — and a claim for forfeiture.

Based on the redacted indictment, Santos and Taitano along with others, hunted Mariana fruit bats on Nov. 1, 2008 at the Sumac maternity colony roost site on Rota — one of three remaining maternity roost sites on Rota, and home to more than 100 roosting Mariana fruit bats, including adults and pups.

It was alleged that the defendants, along with others, hunted fanihi at Sumac using 12 gauge and .410 gauge shotguns, including a .410 gauge Mossberg shotgun, and a .410 gauge Remington shotgun.