CNMI journalist says AG's office left with egg on its face
A Northern Marianas journalist says she is pleased she is no longer facing jail time for protecting her source in a terror trial involving a former governor.
A journalist in the Northern Marianas says she is pleased that she is no longer facing jail time for refusing to hand over the source of one of her stories.
Tammy Doty and her employer, the Marianas Variety, were subpoenaed in May in regards to a story she wrote about a former governor, Benigno Fitial.
The story resulted in terror charges being laid against a man for allegedly threatening the former governor. The charges were dropped in a trial earlier this month.
Ms Doty told Jamie Tahana that what was a relatively minor story was completely overblown by the attorney general's office and they've been left with egg on their face.
TAMMY DOTY: The trial, if you want to call it that, ended up being a non-starter, basically. A terror trial that lasts one day.
JAMIE TAHANA: Was it actually considered a terror trial?
TD: Yes, he was charged under a terroristic threat - the first of its kind here in the CNMI. So as a felony it doesn't get much more serious than that.
JT: So what happened in court? It only lasted a day.
TD: Well, the prosecution's chief witness had already recanted in my article, so when they put him on the stand he, of course, said exactly what he had already told several media outlets here and the prosecution themselves and anyone else that would listen. So, of course, he became basically a witness for the defence. And the prosecution really had no place to go so they trotted in some police detectives and homeland security and the ex-governor's press secretary, all of whom only knew of the supposed threats second-hand. And, basically, it came down to who did the jury believe? And of course they went with the only person to be involved in the actual conversation.
JT: Have we had any enlightenment on what these supposed threats were, 'cause all we know is there was an argument with the former governor's secretary or something?
TD: Yeah, with the special assistant. And the citizen was just very irate about what he believed was corruption and thuggery and nepotism, and, basically, he just vented about his dissatisfaction with the governor, which turned out to be timely considering the governor resigned in humiliation just two weeks later, instead of facing an impeachment vote from the senate, which would have removed him from office.
JT: You yourself were subpoenaed by the attorney general's office looking for material in regards to this argument, but you were never called as a witness.
TD: No. They sent me a subpoena as a witness the Friday before the trial was to start, so I dutifully showed up at court at 9am and sat outside the courtroom, as witnesses do. And I waited and I waited until 4:30. At the end of the day the trial was over and the case was sent to the jury. So they had egg on their face. And at the end of the day they just didn't want to call me to the stand because they knew that the repercussions would be terrible.
JT: So this basically means it's all over?
TD: It's all over. That afternoon, I think the jury deliberated for exactly 15 minutes and it was a resounding 'not guilty'. That, in itself, was stunning and it was a big slap in the face to the prosecution. Hopefully they won't engage in these kinds of unwarranted cases in the future.
JT: Have we heard any reaction from the prosecution, the attorney general's office or the police?
TD: No, 'a storm in a tea cup' might be a good metaphor. Somehow this got completely out of control. And like a train that picks up momentum, it can't be stopped, for whatever reason the attorney general's office just kept charging forward with this when any person with common-sense could see what was going to happen. I don't think we will ever know what the motivations were or who was driving this train.
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