An anonymous commenter mentioned on this blog and in the Marianas Variety comments that Governor Fitial has commuted the sentence of convicted ice dealer, David Tanaka Diaz.
I couldn't confirm that report.
I did learn from a DOC official that David Tanaka Diaz has been released from jail.
David Tanaka Diaz was caught with 212.59 grams of ice (a/k/a methamphetamine) and 77.28 grams of marijuana. The ice haul was considered the biggest in CNMI history at the time, and it seems that record may still stand.
Although he tried to quash the search warrant against him that led to the discovery of the ice, he was unsuccessful. And then he was convicted of charges in April 2002 after a jury trial.
The Saipan Tribune reported on this as follows:
The prosecution, through Assistant Attorneys General Daniel Cohan and Janine Udui, convinced the court of Diaz' guilt on the seven-count charges by presenting corroborating witnesses' testimonies, as well as, physical evidence pertaining to the events that occurred on August 29, 2001.
Diaz was apprehended that day in the district of Garapan, where authorities were able to seize from him quantities of crystal methamphetamine or ice.
Aside from the drug charge, prosecutors were able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Diaz had fought to elude police arrest and in the process, rammed into a police vehicle and injured several bystanders.
After disclosing both his and the jury's verdict, Lizama proceeded to impose the sentence on Diaz, which is as follows:
A $500-fine and restitution to the Department of Public Safety on the unsafe backing charge; six months incarceration with a $500-fine on the fleeing/attempting to elude a police officer charge; six months incarceration with a $500-fine for the hit-and-run charge; six months incarceration with a $1,000-fine for the reckless driving charge; and a $50 fine for illegal possession of a controlled substance.
The court has yet to impose a sentence on the two other charges---drug-trafficking and criminal mischief---pending the release of a pre-sentence report.
Illegal trafficking of a controlled substance, in itself, has a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years, according to the court.
Diaz was represented by court-appointed counsel Antonio M. Atalig.
The Superior Court then imposed its sentence in August 2002: 30 years jail term, 25 in jail without the possibility of parole.
Again, from the Tribune:
The Superior Court yesterday sentenced a musician to 30 years in jail "the highest penalty imposed so far by a local court on a drug trafficking offense" for what authorities consider to be the biggest drug-seizure in the Commonwealth last year.
Superior Court Associate Judge Juan T. Lizama, however, ordered that the last five years of the sentence on defendant David Tanaka Diaz be suspended, meaning that he would be released on supervised probation later on. The first 25 years of the sentence is to be served without parole.
Given this report, it seems likely that the only way David Tanaka Diaz could be released from jail would be by the Governor's action.
I hope the Variety and Tribune will investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the release of David Tanaka Diaz from the Department of Corrections.
One small detail--I wonder if he is still obligated to comply with the terms of release orginally set by the judge.
Upon his release from jail, Diaz is to pay a fine of $2,000, Lizama said. He also ordered Diaz to undergo drug counseling.
At the time he was caught, he had plans to leave the CNMI. Diaz had prior convictions for ice in federal court from 1992, and had charges pending against him when the arrest for the large quantity was made. I wonder if he'll be gone aleady?
I also wonder about separation of powers--if the Legislature sets mandatory sentences and the Court respects them, why doesn't our Governor and Executive branch? How could this man's release after 8 years be in the public's interest when he is the biggest ice dealer we've seen and that problem persists here?