Fired OAG counsel appeals termination

RESPONSE: Guam Fire Department first responders assist attorney Gary Gumataotao, who had collapsed at the Guam Judicial Center on Aug. 1. He was allegedly pushed by then Assistant Attorney General David Highsmith. Highsmith is appealing his job termination. Contributed photo

The assistant attorney general accused of assaulting another attorney inside the Judiciary of Guam back in August is no longer with the Office of the Attorney General.

"David Highsmith is no longer employed with the Office of the Attorney General, effective Oct. 2, 2019. There will be no further comment on the matter as it was a personnel issue," said AG spokeswoman Carlina Charfauros.

On Aug. 1, Highsmith, who handled civil litigation, was booked and released on charges of assault after an alleged incident involving attorney Gary Gumataotao.

Highsmith was placed on administrative leave, pending the outcome of an internal review at the AG’s office.

Zero tolerance

"The attorney general has serious challenges in managing the myriad of cases within his authority. He can ill afford to be distracted by matters that fail to meet the high standard of professional conduct and integrity that he brings to the office," Gumataotao said in a statement to The Guam Daily Post following the AG's announcement. "There is and should always be zero tolerance for violence in the workplace. Quality leadership must always strike the right balance between policy and compassion."

Gumataotao said he and Highsmith were discussing a case involving a watersports license in Judge Anita Sukola's courtroom. He said he was representing a corporation that had gone bankrupt when Highsmith accused his client of misconduct. Gumataotao contended that the case had been dismissed following an agreement between the parties involved.

It was after they both walked out of the courtroom into an area of the Guam Judicial Center when Gumataotao said Highsmith told him "Who do you think you are?" before Highsmith allegedly punched and body-slammed him down onto the floor.

Gumataotao was hospitalized and suffered from cracked ribs, a broken wrist, soreness on his side, hip, back and spine, and a concussion.

Gumataotao plans to take civil action against Highsmith.

Independent prosecutor

Following the alleged attack, Attorney General Leevin Camacho reached out to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero to find an independent attorney to review the police report and determine whether to file criminal charges.

"We are still looking," said Gov. Leon Guerrero in an interview with the Post on Monday. "We have put out feelers. We have two individuals that responded. It's really a limited resource because they have to have a license in Guam and there are other requirements that make it limited, in terms of who we could appoint. There is no decision yet."

As of Monday afternoon, Highsmith remained on the active list of the Guam Bar Association.

The Post has learned the Guam Bar is moving to address his license to practice, however, the association is unable to disclose any specifics, including if a complaint has been filed against the attorney, as the process is, by law, confidential.

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