CNMI rape defendant faces 110-year prison term, prosecutor says

GUMA HUSTISIA: The Guma Hustisia in Susupe, Saipan. Kenneth Thomas Blas Kaipat, 17, faces a lengthy prison sentence after allegedly sexually assaulting a woman, according to a prosecutor in the case. Judiciary of the Northern Mariana Islands handout

SAIPAN — Asked about the potential punishment that could be imposed on the defendant in a rape case, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Assistant Attorney General Samantha Vickery told CNMI Superior Court Associate Judge Wesley Bogdan that the accused is facing a prison sentence of 110 years.

"This is on top of my head and not including the lesser charges," Vickery added.

Judge Bogdan, at the dispositive hearing on Wednesday, also asked the parties whether there was discussion for a nontrial disposition of the case.

Vickery said the AG's office made an offer to the defense before the case was transferred from juvenile court to adult court.

"But it was rejected," Vickery said. "We will make another offer, but I anticipate that it will be rejected."

Kenneth Thomas Blas Kaipat, 17, is accused of sexually assaulting a 24-year-old woman.

The CNMI Office of the Attorney General charged Kaipat with sexual assault and other offenses in adult court following the Superior Court's order granting the criminal division's request to transfer the case from juvenile court to adult court in May.

Represented by attorney Brien Sers Nicholas, Kaipat was charged with three counts of sexual assault in the first degree, two counts of sexual assault in the second degree, aggravated assault and battery, assault with a dangerous weapon, strangulation and burglary. 

Nicholas has filed five motions on behalf of Kaipat: motion to dismiss counts II and IV; motion to dismiss for violation of right to speedy trial; motion to compel discovery; motion to suppress evidence; and motion to make juvenile records public.

At the hearing on Wednesday, Nicholas asked the court to allow him to talk in front of the jury about the juvenile court records for the defense of his client.

"The records need to be released so that I can talk to the jury about the juvenile court. It is my firm belief that the government is concerned that if the real truth comes out about this case, about this young man, incarcerated for more than 10 months (now), for no reason at all, is wrong," Nicholas said.

"I need those juvenile records in the event that I need to talk about them in the defense of my client, and to assure that he receives a fair trial," Nicholas added.

In response, Vickery said, "We are not trying to cover up anything here. Both the defense and prosecution have a right to a fair trial."

Vickery said the court "should know that the defense has also filed a motion (regarding) alleged media prejudice. ... Making inflammatory juvenile records public will result in more media coverage. The defendant is wasting this court's time with another frivolous motion."

Judge Bogdan has taken under advisement four of the five motions made by the defendant, and scheduled another hearing for Aug. 9 on the defendant's request to make his juvenile records public.