A request to remove a second federal judge presiding over a jury tampering and drug case involving a retired Guam police officer has been denied.
Chief District Judge for the Northern Marianas Ramona Manglona heard arguments from both the prosecution and defense in the District Court of Guam on a sealed motion to recuse her from overseeing the case against defendant John “Boom” Mantanona.
“We need to consider our options now,” said Arriola following the judge’s decision to deny the motion that she disqualify herself from the case on Monday.
Prosecutor agreed with defense lawyer
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rosetta San Nicolas joined in support of defense attorney Jay Arriola’s motion.
“I think the point that the government and defense agree in this particular case is that a reasonable person, not a reasonable judge or lawyer, but a reasonable person would question a judge’s impartiality in even presiding over this case when issues are coming before her that involve other matters she presided in.”
Both parties had referred to a case that Manglona presided over on Saipan, the main Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, in 2014.
In that case, Former CNMI Fish and Wildlife acting Director Raymond Borja Roberto was acquitted of multiple counts of enticing three minors to have sex with him in exchange for money, and for tampering with a witness. Federal prosecutors then alleged Roberto attempted to influence the testimony of an individual and tried to persuade the same individual to alter, destroy and conceal evidence.
Mantanona was also a private investigator in the 2014 case.
“This court's impartiality might be questioned,” Arriola said during Monday’s hearing.
San Nicolas admitted they could not present any facts that indicate the judge had personal knowledge of what was going on in the Roberto case.
“We want a fair trial for this defendant,” San Nicolas said.
Judge: ‘I know my own responsibility’
However, Manglona said she had no personal knowledge of the case other than the facts presented before the court.
“I know my own responsibility in evaluating a case,” Manglona said. “My decision needs to be based on facts, not speculation.”
Manglona took over the case after Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood removed herself from hearing it, because she oversaw the drug case trial for Martinez and Moser. As pointed out by the Mantanona defense team, it created potential for a conflict of interest.
Still pending is the prosecution’s request to review of Mantanona’s release order. Prosecutors want Mantanona’s release revoked due to a “serious risk” that he will obstruct or attempt to obstruct justice or threaten, injure or intimidate prospective witnesses or jurors. Mantanona is scheduled to appear back in court on Oct. 29.
Mantanona, who owns a private investigation business, was an investigator for the defense in the drug case against Raymond Martinez and Juanita Moser.
Brother also appeared in court on Monday
John Mantanona’s brother, William Topasna Mantanona, also appeared before District Court of Guam Magistrate Judge Joaquin Manibusan Jr. on Monday for a status hearing. William Mantanona is set to go to trial on Nov. 13. The case against him alleges he influenced and persuaded jurors to vote not guilty in the drug case against Martinez and Moser.
William Mantanona was also accused of making a false statement and representation to the Department of Homeland Security concerning an investigation by DHS in December 2018.