SAIPAN COURT DENIES VILLAGOMEZ RELEASE

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former Lt. Governor must stay in jail pending sentence

By Raquel Bagnol

SAIPAN, CNMI (Mariana Variety, July 22, 2009) - The federal court denied the motions for continued release that former Lt. Governor Timothy P. Villagomez, former Commerce secretary James A. Santos and his wife Joaquina Santos separately filed pending their appeal at the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a one-page order issued yesterday, United States District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Alex R. Munson denied without prejudice the defendants’ premature motions for release pending appeal.

Munson said the defendants were found guilty of multiple offenses on April 24, 2009. He said that they have not been sentenced and therefore, appeals have not been filed.

"The motions now before the Court are premature," Munson said.

Munson added that United States Code Section 3142 provides that "the judicial officer shall order that a person who has been found guilty of an offense and sentenced to a term of imprisonment, and who has filed an appeal or a petition for a writ of certiorari, be detained unless the judicial officer makes specific findings."

Villagomez filed his motion for continued release pending appeal on Monday with his counsel David J. Lujan.

James Santos with his counsel Victorino DLG Torres and Joaquina Santos with her counsel Ramon Quichocho filed their separate motions for release yesterday, stating that they are entitled to continued release on the condition previously set by the court while their appeal are pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Torres and Quichocho argued for their clients and said that both defendants are not flight risks and pose no danger to the community.

After the jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict on all counts against the defendants, the defense filed a motion for new trial on the grounds that they were deprived of their right to a fair trial by an impartial jury, a motion for acquittal notwithstanding the verdict, and a motion to disqualify Munson from the case. The court denied all the motions filed by the defense.

Villagomez and the Santos couple will be sentenced on July 28, 2009 after they were convicted for all five counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, theft of federal funds and bribery in connection with the Rydlyme scandal.

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