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Defense counsel: Rented cars are not government vehicles

ASSISTANT Public Defender Heather Zona, who represents former Labor Secretary Edith Deleon Guerrero, said the testimony of a former assistant staffer of the Workforce Investment Agency supported the defense position that rented cars are not government vehicles.

Testifying as a government witness on the second day of the bench trial,  Katrina Diaz stated that there were other WIA staffers authorized to drive  rented vehicles.

After she was asked by Zona to tell the court if anyone other than Deleon Guerrero drove rented vehicles, Assistant Attorney General Robert Glass Jr. objected. He said the testimony of the witness might incriminate herself.

 Zona said “there were other folks driving the rented vehicles at DOL-WIA that were never cited. This supports our argument that these are not government vehicles.”

Superior Court Judge Joseph N. Camacho, who is presiding over the trial, said he was considering appointing counsel for witnesses to protect their rights.

In her testimony, Diaz said she was the one who prepared memos for fuel purchases of vehicles rented by WIA. She said these were signed by Deleon Guerrero.

Diaz also testified that other WIA staffers were also authorized to drive the rented vehicles, but the primary driver was Deleon Guerrero.

 When Glass asked Diaz about the memos authorizing fuel purchases for the rented vehicles, Zona objected. “Who buys the fuel does not determine who owns the vehicle.  I don’t see the relevance and I don’t see what it has to do with the charges in the case,” she added.

 Another government witness, Bernie Palacios of the Department of Finance, testified that their office prepared the checks and cash vouchers for the rental vehicles for DOL-WIA based on the purchase order and purchase request in their system.

 The trial will continue today, Friday, at the federal courthouse.

According to the prosecution, Deleon Guerrero, from Dec. 8, 2013 to Oct. 1, 2016, used a government vehicle that had tinting on its windows; that was not clearly marked as such on both front doors; and did not bear government license plates according to the prosecution.

 On Oct. 16, 2016, a traffic citation was issued by a police officer against Deleon Guerrero at 3:39 p.m. in the parking lot of the Happiness Chinese restaurant in western Garapan.

Deleon Guerrero was driving a red  Toyota registered to Marfega Trading Co. Inc., doing business as Islander Rent A Car.

She was cited for misuse of a government vehicle. Deleon Guerrero said the vehicle was a rental car and not government property.

Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/104354-defense-counsel-rented-cars-are-not-government-vehicles

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