TORRES: Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Gov. Ralph DLG Torres takes his oath of office beside his wife, Diann, in January 2019. David Butterfield/For Marianas Variety

SAIPAN (MARIANAS VARIETY)—-CNMI Governor Ralph DLG Torres was summoned to appear before the Superior Court on 18 April 2022, “with respect to the Information” filed by the Office of the Attorney General which on Friday charged him with misconduct in public office, theft and contempt.

Also on Friday, Associate Judge Teresa Kim-Tenorio issued an order disqualifying herself from the case, saying her partiality might be questioned.

In a statement to the media, the AG’s office said the criminal case against the governor is alleging 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 first lady Diann T. Torres. The case also alleges one count of contempt for failure to appear in compliance with a House committee subpoena.

According to the AG’s office, the governor violated 1 CMC § 7407(f) by flying business or first class using Commonwealth funds, in violation and made punishable by 6 § CMC 3202.

1 CMC § 7407(f) states: “Any government employee who causes an airline ticket to be issued in violation of this section shall pay a civil fine of one thousand dollars.”

As for 6 § CMC 3202, it states: “Every person who, being a public official, does any illegal act under the color of office, or willfully neglects to perform the duties of his or her office as provided by law, is guilty of misconduct in public office, and upon conviction thereof may be imprisoned for a period of not more than one year, or fined not more than US$1,000, or both.”

The AG’s office said the governor also violated 1 CMC § 1306 (a) (1), made punishable by 1 CMC § 1307 (1) by failing to appear before a House committee that was investigating his public expenditures.

1 CMC § 1307 (1) states that a

“person guilty of contempt under this chapter shall upon conviction be fined not more than US$1,000 or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.”

The governor has challenged the validity of the subpoena in Superior Court where the case is still pending.

Attorney General Edward Manibusan, in his statement, said, “The charges follow months of thorough investigation by the Office of the Attorney General Investigation Division. The next steps in the process will be to have Governor Torres arraigned and allow the case to proceed in accordance with the criminal justice system. As this is now an active case, neither I, nor my office, can provide further comments.”

The information against the governor was filed, on behalf of the AG’s office, by Chief Solicitor and Assistant AG J. Robert Glass Jr.

In a statement Sunday, the Office of the Governor said it has “received a copy of the charges filed by the Attorney General against Governor Torres. The Office of the Governor trusts in the CNMI’s justice system and declines to comment further on the pending litigation. The matter has been forwarded to Governor Torres’ private counsel.”

Separate statements about the charges against the governor were issued by Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, who is running for governor; the House leadership; the Democratic gubernatorial tandem of Reps. Tina Sablan and Leila Staffler; and the governor’s CNMI Republican Party.

The charges against the governor were among those mentioned in the articles of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives on 12 January, 2022 by a vote of 15 to 4 with 1 abstention. The governor has denied the charges.

The CNMI Senate said it is set to proceed with the impeachment hearing with or without a record of impeachment or a House prosecutor.

The House leadership has said that the Senate rules are “unfair” and “unconstitutional.”

At least six of the nine senators must vote to convict in order to remove the governor from office……PACNEWS

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