SAIPAN — Special prosecutor, Robert James Kingman, has asked the Superior Court to deny former Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ motion to reconsider the court’s previous order denying the defense motion for the Office of the Attorney General to withdraw or be disqualified as prosecutor.
Kingman likewise asked the court to deny the defense motion to disqualify him as special prosecutor in the case.
The AG’s office has charged Torres with 12 counts of misconduct in public office and one count of theft relating to the issuance of airline tickets for business class, first class, or other premium class travel for himself and/or Diann T. Torres, his wife.
The case also alleged one count of contempt for failure to appear in compliance with a legislative subpoena.
Ralph Torres has denied the charges.
Kingman said the defense motion for reconsideration is improper and unnecessary.
“The delay on the reconsideration motion belies defendant’s claims to harm,” he said.
“Defendant claims that the court should act based on the underlying principles of Rules 54 and 59(e) of the NMI Rules of Civil Procedure. Setting aside that it is the Criminal Rules that guide, this is not a final order or judgment, and that these rules apply for litigation regarding multiple parties and unclear pecuniary awards, even those rules would require such a motion to be served not later than 10 days after the entry of the judgment,” Kingman said.
He noted that the defendant’s motion was filed 206 days after the court’s order.
A “manifest injustice” this clearly is not, Kingman added.
He said, “The broad reading of there being a conflict of interest would prevent any prosecution for any governor for any offense.”
Pro hac vice
According to Kingman, the defendant’s motion asserts facts outside of the record.
“Despite the court indicating that a special prosecutor could handle the dismissed count, let alone the ones that (Assistant Attorney General Robert Glass) was appropriately screened on, defendant argues that the special prosecutor’s employment contract obtained through their Open Government Act request establishes a breach in the screening protocols that were scrutinized in the court’s evidentiary hearing,” Kingman said.
“The Commonwealth does recognize that there has been a change in their representation since this motion was originally heard. If testimony is required to establish that the special prosecutor has not been privy to disqualifying information, the Commonwealth stands ready for such a hearing. However, if agreeing to employment is all that is required to prevent a special prosecutor from handling a case, it would differ considerably from the protocols in similar jurisdictions and likely preclude any prosecution brought by the independent attorney general against a governor for any means,” Kingman said.
If we are looking outside of the record, he added, “the Supreme Court’s approval of the pro hac vice application indicates that they did not find a problem with the special prosecutor’s admission for the specified purpose.”
Pro hac vice is a Latin phrase that means "for this occasion only." In the legal field, it refers to the practice of allowing an attorney who is not licensed in a particular jurisdiction to appear in court in that jurisdiction for a particular case.
The defense team has also petitioned the Department of Finance to declare that the special prosecutor contract executed by the Office of the Attorney General in connection with Commonwealth v. Torres, Criminal Action No. 22-0050, is invalid.
The former governor’s trial will start June 5. He is represented by attorneys Viola Alepuyo, Victorino DLG Torres, Matthew Holley and Anthony Aguon.
On April 19, Judge Pro Tem Alberto Tolentino recused himself from the case due to health reasons.
As of Friday afternoon, no new judge had been appointed to preside over the case.