Rota mayor’s lawyer arrested for DUI; jury trial postponed

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ROTA Mayor Efraim Atalig’s lawyer, David Banes, was arrested Sunday on the charge of driving under the influence, Department of Public Safety spokesman Dre Pangelinan said. He did not elaborate.

David Banes

Banes, for his part, asked the federal court for a short continuance of the jury trial of Mayor Atalig and his co-defendant, Evelyn Atalig, which was supposed to start Monday, March 10.

At a status conference on Tuesday, District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona granted the request and continued the jury trial to March 18, 2020 at 8:30 a.m.

After the jury selection, she said the court will take a break and reconvene the trial on April 6, 2020.

The Ataligs appeared in court out of custody. Evelyn Atalig was represented by attorney Steven Pixley while Banes and attorney Dennis Nie represented Mayor Atalig. Pixley joined Banes’ motion for a continuance.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric O’Malley did not oppose the request for a short postponement of the trial.

Although he was informed that he could seek a new lawyer, Mayor Atalig expressed his full faith and confidence in Banes.

At the hearing, Banes informed the court that the Chamorro interpreter requested by the defense is for Ms. Atalig and not for Mayor Atalig.

Since the local court case bench trial will begin on March 30, 2020, Banes also requested that the federal trial begin after that date.

The U.S. government lawyer did not oppose the request.

The federal jury trial has been postponed several times now.

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

They are accused of orchestrating under false pretenses CNMI-government-funded trips to California, Palau, Guam, and Saipan from February 2018 to August 2018.

In the CNMI Superior Court case, Mayor Atalig and seven of his former/current resident directors were charged with misconduct in public office.

They were accused of taking government-funded per diem and salary compensation to attend a Republican Party campaign rally on Guam on June 23, 2018.

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