Ataligs’ trial postponed, again

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FOLLOWING a conference call on Monday, the federal court postponed the jury trial of Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig and co-defendant Evelyn Atalig in light of the global Covid-19 outbreak and the decision of the Guam and CNMI governments to close all their offices effective immediately and directing all non-essential employees to remain at home.

District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona vacated the Ataligs’ jury trial set for March 18, 2020.

The court finds that “the interests of justice served by taking this action outweigh the interests of the parties and the public in a speedy trial.”

The judge said the time period between the date of the order and the new trial date “shall be excluded from the running of the speedy trial clock.”

Judge Manglona also vacated the motion hearing set for Tuesday regarding the tampering with an expert witness allegedly committed by a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent.

She continued the hearing today, Wednesday, at 5 p.m., and set a status conference for April 29, 2020 at 1:30 p.m.

At the conference hearing on Tuesday, Mayor Atalig was represented by attorney David Banes while Evelyn Atalig was represented by attorney Steven Pixley.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Garth Backe and Eric O’Malley appeared for the federal government.

The Ataligs were 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 to August 2018.

In CNMI Superior Court, Mayor Atalig and seven of his former and current resident directors were charged with misconduct in public office for taking government-funded per diem and salary compensation to attend a Republican campaign rally on Guam on June 23, 2018.

Their bench trial is set to begin on March 30, 2020.

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