Friday, April 23, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Just being selected as one of six(EDIT: the newspapers say five) schools to compete and perform at Carnegie Hall was a huge honor. Winning silver is incredible!
Congratulations Manta Ray Band and Mr. Will DeWitt. Thanks for all you've done and kudos for another amazing success!
Photo captured from Marianas Variety website.
Thanks to Rose Cuison Villazor who sent this photo of Anna Rose (flanked by Roseanna Sablan and Theszaray Omar).
I'm guessing this was before the show. (Strange hair, which in later years will be material for comedy, I'm sure!)
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Fumi and James make the photo! Naomi and Leagine get interviewed. Will DeWitt is in there too.
Photo by Mary Kay Magistad
Good content, too.
Monday, April 19, 2010
This article from today's Variety, about the activities this week at the American Memorial Park:
On Thursday, the free movie is entitled “The End of The Line” and it will be shown at 5:30 p.m.
This is a movie that looks beyond the surface of the seas to reveal a troubling truth beneath — an ocean increasingly empty of fish.
I haven't seen this movie, but it sounds worthwhile.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
All arrived safely. Most students went on a walking tour Saturday evening, but a few (nine?) went to see THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at the Majestic.
This production adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber has been playing on Broadway for 22 years (since January 1988), and is older than the Manta Band students!
It was a short conversation. No time to hear about the weather, the hotel, or any other impressions of NYC, the Band, or the trip, just a short rave review of Anna's first Broadway experience. (She was almost speechless as she tried to express her feelings about seeing this show!)
While we're consumed in Saipan with the daily soap opera of our local government, the world has many other facets worth paying attention to.
An Icelandic volcano has put forth such a massive ash cloud that airports across Europe have been shut down for three days.
The U.S. has indicted some top level Blackwater officials. Blackwater was a CIA contractor providing "security" in Afghanistan and Iraq, but several of its people were involved in shootings that led to federal investigations.
There is a new meaning to the phrase "self-educated." So much real education is available online these days. I'm still exploring Khan Academy, which I read about in our local newspaper (teen section). It seems like there is a lot more free education to be had.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
I have been trying to figure out how that might have happened.
I have not seen the document that releases him. But based on Ed's short description, it seems the Governor must have commuted the sentence as to the 25 years violation related to methamphetamine trafficking. That would leave the lesser crimes' sentences in place, where the Board of Parole would then have room to decide on terms for release into the community.
A brief response to the commenter on Wendy's blog who said:
Jane, you are practically committing legal malpractice. You haven't practiced criminal law in decades.
There is a big, big difference between probation (in which a court retains jurisdiction) and parole or pardon and commutation, in which it does not.
Your hatred of Fitial is so extreme that you blame him for things over which he legally has no control, namely the Board of Parole. That's who any OGA request should be addressed to, not the Governor.
This blog is replete to "citations" of law without any authority whatsoever, a practice which, unfortunately, carries over to CNMI courts and judges. You should be setting an example, Jane, because people trust and rely on you as a lawyer.
I never practiced criminal law as a lawyer. My comments are not legal advice, but opinions, and not a basis for malpractice. But a court has the power to enforce its judgments, whether those are civil or criminal. And I am aware of the differences between suspension of a sentence, probation, parole, commutation of a sentence and pardon.
I didn't talk about probation in any part of my discussion.
I don't hate Governor Fitial, but I disagree vehemently with his continued actions and misgovernance in the CNMI. And I criticize those actions. He certainly is responsible for the commutation of the sentence of David Tanaka Diaz that was necessary before the Board of Parole could take any action to release him. It was obvious, even before Ed spoke on television news, that the Governor had a role in the release of David Tanaka Diaz. Any Open Government Act request would have to addressed to both the Governor and the Board of Parole to get the full picture.
I don't understand the commenter's criticism that the blog is replete with "citations" of law without any authority. That statement itself makes no sense. Perhaps the commenter doesn't realize that a citation of law is a citation of authority. I don't mind being lumped in a criticism with the CNMI courts and judges. I'd rather be with them than with the current Administration.
On the governor's decision to commute the sentence of David Tanaka Diaz:
I think this is reprehensible. Perhaps the Governor knows something that we don't. But then the community should be told, because this is a matter of public importance.
The Legislature has long held a strong line against drug trafficking, especially of ice. The 25 year sentence without being subject to suspension, probation, or parole is one aspect of that line against drug trafficking. (Some may disagree with the law and call it draconian. I might even think so as it is written to apply against a first-time offender. But as it applies in this case, I don't think it is unfair, draconian, or illogical.)
The Court respected the Legislature's policy in the case of David Tanaka Diaz, but the Governor has not. He gave a THREEPEAT offender a commutation of sentence for the worst drug-trafficking crime in the CNMI.
And it should be noted that at the time of the original sentencing of David Tanaka Diaz, the CNMI Attorney General's office asked for a sentence of 50 years!
David Tanaka Diaz has already proven that arrest, conviction and jail time for drug trafficking isn't rehabilitative for him. His first time getting caughtresulted in a federal conviction. His second time resulted in charges that were pending when he committed his third offense--the largest drug haul in the CNMI's history.
I recognize that the Governor has the power and discretion to commute the sentence of David Tanaka Diaz. That is not subject to judicial review. I think the Governor exercised that power irresponsibly and to the jeopardy of the community. Why should this man get a break? What message are we really sending through this Governor's action? Is this about connections? Is it about political favors and payback? Because it certainly isn't about law enforcement or justice.
On the Board of Parole's decision to grant parole:
Apparently after the Governor commuted Diaz's drug trafficking, non-parolable sentence, all that was left was the sentence on the lesser crimes. I disagree with the decision by the Parole Board to grant parole on those, also. What makes me angriest is the possibility that this THREEPEAT drug offender will be allowed access to our children. I don't want him doing any youth outreach. I think that is just a way for him to find easy prey for continuation of illegal drug trafficking. I don't want him singing a song that is played on the radio or in the schools. I don't want the possibility that any student thinks drug trafficking is a way to get airtime for your talent; I don't want the possibility that any young child becomes a fan of David Tanaka Diaz. Is there any science, criminal justice experience, or rational thought to support such ridiculous terms for the release of David Tanaka Diaz? The Board of Parole should be showered with criticism and the community should let all of its members know that their action is disgraceful.
Perhaps it's time to follow the federal jurisprudence's lead and abolish the possibility of parole in our own local criminal justice system.
I always enjoy the Flame Tree Arts Festival. The venue at Civic Center Park isn't my favorite--I like the American Memorial Park better for this event--but no matter where this festival is held, it's always an entertaining and reinvigorating community event.
I just wish the Arts Council would have used a local girl or woman in local traditional costume doing a Micronesian dance, rather than having some unknown woman in feathers doing hula or another Polynesian dance for their poster image.
Friday, April 16, 2010
As if hearing Wendy Doromal's question, the Marianas Variety apparently tried to track down the information about the release of David Tanaka Diaz. In fact, he was paroled.
Some interesting bits:
1. Diaz's appeal challenged the court's sentencing. The CNMI Supreme Court, in its October 2003 opinion, said that he could be sentenced to either 25 years or more of jail OR a fine. The Supreme Court wasn't sure the trial court realized that it could avoid jail time in sentencing and just order a fine. So it remanded.
2. The sentencing STATUTE 6 CMC sec. 2141(b)(1)(b) (amended in 1991 by P.L. 7-42) specifically says the sentence shall not be subject to suspension.
Any person that violates subsection (a) of this section with respect to
(1) A substance classified in Schedules I or II which is a narcotic drug or methamphetaminehydrochloride shall be sentenced for a first offense to a term of imprisonment for a term of not less than 25 years, a fine of not more than $10,000, or both and the term of imprisonment shall not be subject to suspension, probation, or parole...
3. The Supreme Court, among other things, held that the language of this statute meant that the original sentence, which included 5 years suspended sentence after the 25 years mandatory imprisonment, was not authorized. The sentence, whatever the term of imprisonment, could not be subject to suspension, probation or parole.
4. On remand, the Superior Court issued a 25 year sentence of imprisonment, not subject to suspension, probation, or parole.
5. Obviously, by statute and by court order, that sentence is NOT SUBJECT TO SUSPENSION, PROBATION OR PAROLE.
6. The Attorney General, Ed Buckingham, is the legal counsel for the Board of Parole, according to the Marianas Variety.
7. The Board of Parole granted a parole to David Tanaka Diaz, despite having no authority to do so. (EDIT: This is an assumption. DOC says that David Tanaka Diaz was released on "parole"-so it appears that it means a typical parole. It could be linguistic gamesmanship, however, with the AG or DOC meaning something else, as if any release from DOC would be a parole. The legal definition of parole, from Black's Law Dictionary, however, talks of parole in criminal law as a "conditional" release." So without seeing the actual document granting his release, it seems that he was granted parole on conditions by the Board of Parole.)
8. The Attorney General, Ed Buckingham, seems to also be the legal counsel for the Department of Corrections. (I say this based on the AG's role in massage-gate.)
9. The DOC, knowing that the Board of Parole had no authority, knowing the terms of imprisonment set by law and court order, knowing 25 years has not elapsed since his imprisonment and the sentence has not been satisfied, released David Tanaka Diaz on March 12, 2010. [EDIT: We know now that the DOC did have authority to release Diaz based on parole, because the Governor commuted the 25 years/non-parolable sentence.]
10. CONCLUSION: We have put the crooks in charge of the prison. We have a breakdown of law and order.
Or we just have some very deceitful, lying responders to inquiries about the basis for Diaz's release.
This is the third incident involving DOC in the past couple of months--the Chinese federal detainee-masseuse taken to the Governor in the dead of night by Dolores San Nicolas to massage him; Mr. Aldan, husband to the same woman-now former DOC chief- Dolores San Nicolas, in prison but noncompliant with the terms of his plea but getting weekend releases and the AG making excuses for his gun which has not been returned; and a two-time convicted ice dealer who got caught with the largest amount of the drug in CNMI history now released contrary to statutory law and the court ordered sentence for his crime [EDIT, but legal as the Governor commuted the sentence].
This is really bad.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
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?
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Austerity-what a nightmare. Tonight there is a public hearing in Kagman--conducted by Rota Sen. Jovita Taimanao. (I can't make it-other commitments to my daughter.)
The administration/and the Covenant legislators propose a plan that will lose the PSS $16million dollars immediately and cause other harm. In order to save about $4 to $5million.
Senator Paul Manglona proposes an end to protections for governor, legislators and judicial salaries--but such proposal couldn't take effect against any one already in their position during this present term.
Meanwhile, legislators are getting $4,200/day for "subsistence" pay when they have to be on another island other than their home for legislative sessions.
Meanwhile, legislators are getting paid as full-time employees, when we could easily get by with a part-time legislature.
Meanwhile-does anyone remember? The Fitial administration may still be paying $50,000/month to a lawfirm, Jenner and Block, to fight the CNRA, so we can "appeal" Judge Friedman's decision.
The Fitial Administration's claim for austerity is a sham.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
I hate the CNMI's position against further increases in the minimum wage. Tony Pelligrino made an important point in one of his editorials lately--that had we but stuck to our plan in the early 1990's, we would already be at a comparable minimum wage. Delay isn't going to help. It hasn't helped in the past and it isn't going to help now.
We need these small minimum wage increases.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Tomorrow --Saturday April 10, 2010, from 4 PM to about 10 PM--at the American Memorial Park, teens from the 3 Saipan public high schools will be performing various dances and programs that they have designed and choreographed. What makes this program a bit different is the collaborative nature of it. Students from all three high schools are working together, by grade level. So there will be a Freshman program and a Sophomore program and a Junior program and a Senior program, but there will NOT be an MHS or SSHS or KHS program.
This was an opportunity for students from the different schools to get to know each other and strengthen their ties of friendship and 'generation' by having fun and creating a public performance.
I haven't seen any posters. I haven't heard of any promotion of this.(Edit-except for this one newspaper article in the Marianas Variety.) But there seem to be a lot of teens involved, so I hope the word is out and the community comes to the event to support them.
They'll be having fun! So we should go and have fun, too!
Thursday, April 8, 2010
This is a belated report on the town meeting held by Kilili last evening at the Multi-Purpose Center. I was in attendance from about 5: 10 PM to about 7:10 PM. The meeting was in progress when I arrived and still going on when I left.
There weren't very many people there at first, but more gradually came as the evening went on. Still, in my opinion, the gathering was sparse. Maybe 50 people?
Kilili gave information on two major topics--education and health care.
On education, he made it clear that the threat to federal funds posed by the proposed/pending CNMI legislative austerity measure is real. He was very deferential to the power and authority of the local CNMI Legislature. He acknowledged that he has no power to make any decision with regard to the austerity measure. He can only act as a source of information about the federal programs and how such a measure may interact with them, to the extent our elected local leaders want that information.
He was also clear and certain of his facts: The $16 million figure is the amount that will be lost by PSS immediately upon enactment of the austerity measure as presently pending; and millions more would be lost over the next several years. [The measure itself would save only about $4 to $5 million, so there will be an immediate net loss of greater than $10 million.] The reason for this loss of federal funds would be the failure of the CNMI to live up to the "MOE" that the CNMI signed to get the funds. [Kilili said we may even have to pay back funds we've already received, but I don't recall him putting any number on that statement.]
In order to get the latest federal funds, the CNMI agreed it would not reduce its level of support for education, but would agree to a "mainenance of effort" (MOE). This does not meant that the amount of revenues from local coffers must remain unchanged in a declining economy; but it does mean that our budget percentage of support must remain the same.
The furlough Fridays that the Fitial administration favors could be accomplished as part of an austerity measure, but only if the austerity is "across the board" so that the PSS share of the budget stays the same. Instead, the current budget cuts education, but not public safety and public health, which means that the PSS share of the budget will be lower than when the CNMI signed the MOE agreement.
And thus, passage of this austerity measure will mean an instaneous loss of $16 million to PSS.
But our leaders don't believe this or don't want to believe this.
It must be very frustrating to work with politicians who think everything is a political ploy and a soft "fact" and everything is negotiable. Kilili mentioned how he has had meetings with CNMI local politicians in the Legislature (and I think he said the Executive branch), and that these people don't believe this threat is real. He tried to convince them by having a conference phone call with Department of Education officials in Washington, D.C., but the local politicians still refused to believe that their austerity measure would have devastating effects on PSS.
I want to say kudos to Kilili for trying; and it is also very gratifying to know that our PSS Board and administration are all intelligent enough and educated enough and capable of dealing with reality enough that they do recognize and understand the very real problems that the austerity measure as presently drafted would have.
In the end, it will be our innocent children who will suffer if this measure is passed; our kids who will lose untold educational benefits because of the ignorance of our Legislators and the gullibility of our electorate who voted them into office.
Perhaps our elected officials will wise up and we'll dodge this bullet. I hope so.
Kilili tried valiantly to explain the Health Care Reform legislation that is now law in the US.
I can't say he did a great job or that I know anything much more than before, but what I did get from his presentation:
1. The health care reform bill goes into effect in 2014, although some provisions may be effective as early as 2011.
2. The mandatory provisions are (I think totally, or for the most part? but I could be wrong about this) not applicable in the CNMI.
3. We can have the opportunity to have a health care exchange program apply here, but this cannot happen unless the Governor agrees and acts to make it so.
4. A health care exchange program would provide a place where lawful residents and citizens (not illegal aliens) could get medical insurance. Each of the providers who join the exchange will offer insurance packages; and each package must have certain features but may offer other variables. People shop for their insurance at the exchange and providers offer their deals--and for people who are over Medicaid eligibility limits but still without the ability to pay full insurance premiums, they will pay to their ability (as set by rates and schedules, etc.) and the federal government will pay the difference. Kilili favors an exchange that would include Guam, Hawaii and even California-so that people could get advantages of a larger pool and have better coverage for lower rates.
5. Health care providers will not be able to deny insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions. They will not be able to charge women more than they charge men, or vice versa. The rate differences based on age and whether people smoke cigarettes must be within set parameters.
There was some grumbling from some in the audience about all of this. Kilili was very outspoken, though, in saying that all people need health insurance, and all employers should be willing to invest in their most valuable asset, their workers.
All in all, it was a good public forum. Kilili also spoke to how we need to air our concerns and opinions in a respectful way, especially about immigration and the foreign workers in the CNMI. He emphasized that through this kind of dialogue we could reach a concensus that would provide the best decisions and policies on the issues.
Very well said.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
where: the 9th Circuit (this is a court of limited jurisdiction and you can't usually initiate cases there)
Plaintiff: National Chamorro Association of the Mariana Islands/president Glenn H. Manglona. This organization is so well known that no one has heard of it until today's newspaper article came out. (Well, maybe in Rota?)
Represented by/Attorneys/Co Plaintiffs: Robin Hood International Human Rights Legal Defense Fund and Paul Risenhoover. OMG! One federal judge said Paul Risenhoover is "a fraudulent opportunist."
Judge Batts made clear she viewed Mr. Risenhoover, an Oklahoma native who is about 30, as an unsavory character. She described him as a fervent anti-Communist who was deemed to be so unreliable by the Government that it ultimately stopped its dealings with him, fearing he would become a liability at trial....
[S]he said in her opinion that Mr. Risenhoover, who speaks Mandarin Chinese, English and Hebrew and claims to be a law school graduate who has not passed the bar, may have also been involved in other illegal activities, including other illegal organ sales and a fraud scheme on the Internet.
And if all that isn't enough, the lawsuit itself sounds ridiculous. The Trib says the complaint is 200 pages! That's long by any legal standard.
And some highlights to emphasize just how ludicrous this is:
They're also filing in international court on behalf of native Chamorros, Carolinians and Formosans???
The 9th circuit lawsuit apparently challenges whether the US Congress had the authority to enter into the Covenant. (Please read the US Constitution and the power bestowed on Congress regarding foreign affairs, territories, and commerce)
5th and 14th amendment claims for takings violations without compensation /impairment of contracts. (Is there any foreign worker here with a contract under CNMI law that was in effect on 11/28/2009 for a period that would last beyond 11/27/2011? I doubt it. Most CNMI contracts were for one year, some for two. But longer?)
And the lawsuit claims we have a right to cheap foreign labor under CNMI control because otherwise we may not be able to live--the CNRA constitutes a deprivation of the right to life!
(Of course, Wendy beat me to this, and she has the pleadings available for review. I especially like that they have highlighted portions in yellow, and green, and red, and blue...OMG!)
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
While other students enjoyed a day off on "Easter Monday," the SSHS Manta Ray Band had a 3 hour rehearsal--from 4 AM to 7 AM! They're working hard on their Carnegie Hall performance and testing the time adjustment, as well.
And it looks like they will be in good shape financially, as well. My gripe (wanting information about the amount raised and not only general cheeriness) was just a bit premature. This week, SSHS Principal Craig Garrison announced that, with the latest donation of $7,000 from Bridge Capital, the band has reached its goal, previously announced as $142,000, the estimated cost of the trip.
The band is still accepting donations, because the estimated fundraising goal is just that--an estimate, and the worry is that it may be too low or that unexpected expenses may crop up. So if you want to donate, (any amount!) you can make a check payable to Saipan Southern High School and in the memo box, write in Manta Ray Band.
The band leaves April 17, 2010 for its debut performance in New York City, first at Central Park, and then at Carnegie Halll.