Ed Propst is reporting that the jury has already returned a verdict in the case against Lieutenant Governor Timothy Villagomez. According to Ed, guilty on all charges.
He says guilty on all charges in the cases against the co-conspirators, too. Confirmed. (thanks to Wendy for the cite).
I think we're all relieved. The rydlyme deal stank through and through, but that's not the same as being enough to convict on federal charges. There's also been a history of difficulty in getting guilty verdicts in cases involving corruption of public officials in the CNMI. We've seen others charged with cheating on construction contracts and such, and no convictions.
So I'm relieved that the jury was convinced by the evidence and strong enough to do what they found right.
I was most offended by the closing argument that included the phrase "choose the local mango." This was a thinly disguised attempt to turn back the clock to the time when being a Chamorro meant people owed you allegiance, especially against the US government. I'm glad that we have jurors who don't want a rotten mango at all, no matter what its origin.
I think the counsel for the accused (and now guilty) defendants seriously misjudged the mood of the jury and the people in the community. People are tired of powerful local politicians abusing their positions, enriching themselves, and causing the rest of us to suffer. Accusing Antonio Guerrero of being a patsy for the feds when he is just another regular guy being ill-used by them was incredibly offensive. The man was obviously working very hard to clear his guilty conscience. Describing FBI agent Dana McMahon as looking like a sheep but really being a wolf was another stupid ploy. She didn't testify and it was clear that the defendants were looking for any scapegoat they could get.
And the other closing arguments suggesting that the US federal government isn't "us" were also offensive. Just last November we elected a Delegate to serve in the US Congress. A record number of local men vied for the position--obviously not subscribing to the basic tenet that everything federal is bad. We're getting economic stimulus money from the US. We've been getting good press for our federally-declared national marine monument. We're heading into federal immigration and the US is respecting our wishes to have better dialogue and clear planning. We're seeing more US military in our neighboring island of Guam with spill-over tourism here.
Kudos to Eric O'Malley, who worked really hard and obviously came to court with his hammer and nails to close the lid on this mess.
(And if the reports of guilty on all charges are wrong or inflated, I still say kudos to Eric, and shake my head in disbelief and disapproval at the closing argument tactics of the defense counsel.)
Now we'll await sentencing. It's pretty clear that federal law will provide some real sanction for the wrongdoing, unlike CNMI law.