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25 year mandatory jail term to run concurrently

By Andrew O. De Guzman SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, July 21, 2011) – In the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Superior Court Judge David A. Wiseman yesterday imposed a total of 28 years, with a mandatory 25-year jail term, on a 45-year-old man convicted of "ice" charges.

Wiseman said the 25-year sentence for two counts of ice trafficking imposed on Qun Yu, also known as Papasang or Jay, will run concurrently, and not subject to suspension, parole, or any form of probation.

[PIR editor’s note: National Drug Intelligence Center reported that a "1999 student survey conducted by the Community Guidance Center revealed that approximately 5 percent of students in grades 7 through 12 had used methamphetamine at least once, compared with the national rate of approximately 9 percent as reported by the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The DEA/CNMI Task Force seized a total of 25 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine from 1996 through February 2002."]

Last May, jurors found Qun Yu guilty of two counts of "ice" trafficking, conspiracy to commit trafficking, and assault of a dangerous weapon. Wiseman subsequently convicted Qun Yu on two counts of possession of "ice," obstruction of justice, and resisting arrest.

In his written sentence and commitment order, Wiseman noted that the maximum total sentence is 117 years if the court were to issue maximum and consecutive sentences and if the mandatory sentence were to run consecutive it would be a total of 75 years.

"Although the court is opposed to mandatory sentences for reasons detailed in this court’s recently published order, a brief statement of my opposition is repeated here. Mandatory incarceration statutes curb the discretion of prosecutors and judges over certain offenses or types of offenders. The divesting of prosecutors and judges of the time honored control over criminal sentences is of concern because discretion is the touchstone of a judicial sentence," Wiseman stated.

Qun Yu was also ordered to pay US$5,000 for each count of ice trafficking and a US$100 court assessment fee.

Assistant Attorneys General Russel Lorfing and Tiberius Mocanu prosecuted the case after a four-day trial.

"We are very pleased with the outcome of this case and truly believe that the commonwealth wins every time a drug dealer is taken off the street," they said. Additionally the successful prosecution of these drug cases ends with us, but it would not have been possible without the hard work and diligence of the [Department of Public Safety’s narcotics] unit and the staff of the office of the attorney general. We plan on continuing to aggressively prosecute drug cases and hopefully quash the epidemic of meth use in the commonwealth."

Attorney Stephen Woodruff served as Qun Yu’s counsel.

Qun Yu has been in custody since his arrest in August last year, several days after he eluded police officers who were pursuing him.

Qun Yu was later found disoriented and dehydrated within the area of the old radar station in Marpi.

Wiseman noted that Qun Yu does not have any prior criminal convictions of record, but was charged in Superior Court in 2007 with six counts of drug related crimes similar to the ones he was convicted in this case. The prosecution dismissed the case due to the difficulties in retrieving essential evidence.

Qun Yu and his girlfriend Ling Zhang, also known as Coco, were involved in a 20-minute high speed car chase last year from Sadog Tasi then south to Chalan Kiya until their Land Cruiser crashed into a septic tank. Qun Yu assaulted three police officers using the vehicle, the prosecution said.

Woodruff said, "Clearly Judge Wiseman wanted to send a message to anyone contemplating distribution of ice that this business is not worth the risk."

He added: "Judge Wiseman also made it clear that he applied the 25-year statutory option because he believed the circumstances of the case warranted it. He specifically mentioned the high speed chase, the gun, the ramming of a police vehicle in the getaway effort, and evidence, although unproven, that Mr. Yu may have been involved in the drug trade for years. In other words, it was a sentence based on Judge Wiseman’s view of the totality of the circumstances. While I disagree with the sentence, I understand and respect the judge’s reasons for imposing it."

Woodruff said the sentence for conspiracy to commit trafficking is 10 years. "This is important because the evidence that Mr. Yu was a co-conspirator in Coco’s drug trafficking was decidedly stronger than the evidence that he himself was guilty of drug trafficking," he added. The overwhelming evidence was that both drug sales were made by Coco and the person known as Papasang simply facilitated Coco’s activities" Woodruff said. It is my view that the guilty verdicts on the two trafficking counts cannot be sustained on appeal but the conspiracy count maybe can," Woodruff went on to say.

The issues in this case will now make their way to the CNMI Supreme Court, the defense counsel added.

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