CNMI Governor Considering Pardoning, Commuting Fitial’s Sentence

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Parole board recommends commutation; Inos not bound by that

By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, July 2, 2015) – Governor Eloy S. Inos on Wednesday said he is looking at "all options" and will make a decision this weekend on whether to pardon or commute the sentence of former Gov. Benigno R. Fitial.

He said it was good that the Board of Parole conducted a public hearing on the issue and made a recommendation which is to commute Fitial’s one-year jail sentence for conspiracy to commit theft of services and for misconduct in public office.

In an interview, Inos said he is not required to follow the board’s recommendation.

But "it’s some kind of guidance…so now the ball is in my court. The next move will be for me to make a decision on which I will go for, to commute or to pardon. I am looking at all options right now."

He reiterated that granting a pardon is one of the powers granted by the Constitution to the governor.

"I have reviewed some of the supporting justifications and I have to wait now for the official letter from the board to know how they arrived at their commutation recommendation," Inos said.

According to the governor, he sent a letter of intent to the Board of Parole to request for an initial consultation to discuss possible options in exercising his constitutional power in respond to Fitial’s application for a pardon.

Inos said he did not initiate the process but made a request for a consultation with the Board of Parole so he could be guided accordingly before making a decision.

He said the consultation was open to public so members of the community could voice their concerns.

In related news, Board of Parole Chairman Ramon B. Camacho said they have already transmitted to the governor their recommendation to commute Fitial’s jail-sentence.

A commutation of sentence, Camacho said, is the substitution of a less severe punishment for a penalty that has already been judicially imposed upon a person.

"In other words, when a governor commutes a sentence, he reduces the sentence that an offender must serve. However a commutation does not remove or alter the offender’s underlying conviction," he added.

On behalf of the board, Camacho thanked the community and all those who attended Tuesday’s public hearing or submitted comments.

He said the board "would not have been able to effectively carry out its constitutional mandate to consult with the governor without the involvement of the community."

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