Justice for Emie

April 23, 2014

Today a Saipan jury found Joseph Acosta Crisostomo guilty of the February 2012 brutal murder of Emerita (Emie) Romero.

After six hours of deliberations, the Superior Court jury's verdict found Crisostomo guilty of the following felony charges: murder in the first degree, kidnapping, sexual assault in the first degree (rape) and robbery.

Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph Camacho ruled that Crisostomo was guilty of the misdemeanor charges of assault and battery and disturbing the peace

The prosecution presented a strong case, calling 31 witnesses to testify. The defense attorney, Janet H. King called one witness.

During closing arguments the prosecution pointed to the damning evidence. DNA samples taken from Emie's body were a match to Crisostomo. Other evidence included the haunting 911 call where Emie was heard pleading and screaming for her life. Crisostomo's voice was identified on that call. Fibers taken from the car Crisostomo was driving matched fibers on Emie's clothing. A footprint at the mall where Emie's body was found matched Crisostomo's footprint.

On February 5, 2012, Emie was waiting for a taxi driver to pick her up and she mistakingly got into the wrong car –Crisostomo's. The Saipan Tribune quoted the prosecution's closing arguments. In part:
In the government’s closing arguments, Brown-Badawy said that Romero was at the wrong place, in the wrong car, at the wrong time. 
Because of that, Brown-Badawy said that Romero, a mother of two, was kidnapped, brutally murdered, and robbed by Crisostomo, who was just looking for a victim in the early morning hours of Feb. 5, 2012, in Garapan. 
She said the evidence showed that Crisostomo raped Romero, strangled her with a pair of leggings, and discarded her body like garbage to rot in a small room at the abandoned La Fiesta Mall. 
Brown-Badawy said Romero could have been anybody else in the community, whether someone’s sister, friend, or relative. 
“To be at the wrong place at the wrong time is something that anybody is scared of,” she said.
A Career Criminal 
Crisostomo is a career criminal who should have been behind bars at the time he murdered the innocent young woman and mother of two children. 

The criminal is also linked to the 1995 murder of a couple who owned a shop in Dandan. The wife, Yu Hua Huang, was strangled like Emie was, and the husband, Zhao Ming Hou, was shot multiple times.

Crisostomo is also linked to the November 2006 murder of Bao Ying Chen. Her naked body was found floating at LauLau Beach. 

A previous post, "Emie' Romero Murderer Arrested" outlines the criminal history of the monster-killer:

In February 2012 Joseph Crisostomo should have been behind bars, not on the streets of Saipan where he was free to purchase more drugs and murder an innocent woman. He was given one of the CNMI's lenient sentences for robbery and was released from prison on December 18, 2011. Emie was murdered less than two months later.

Here is a look at some of Crisostomo's previous arrests:

In 2000 Joseph A. Crisostomo assaulted and threatened to kill a police officer at a routine traffic stop. From the Saipan Tribue:

Assistant Attorney General Clyde Lemons has charged before the Superior Court Mr. Crisostomo of assault and battery, resisting arrest and obstruction of justice. Court records showed that on March 21, 2000, Mr. Crisostomo even threatened to shoot Police Officer Charles Patris and hit him while he was investigating a traffic case.
In 2003 Crisostomo was arrested as a member of an organized ring of robbers who preyed on tourists at the Grotto. The case was dismissed.

In December 2006 Crisostomo was arrested for terrorizing a Kagman Family. The Saipan Tribune reported:

A man allegedly nearly hit a minor boy with his car and slammed his car's door, hitting the stomach of a pregnant teenager. The suspect also allegedly threatened to have somebody burn the house and shoot all people inside.

Police arrested the suspect, Joseph A. Crisostimo, 33, in Koblerville Saturday night for disturbing the peace, assault, assault with a dangerous weapon, and reckless driving.
In January 2007 a month after terrorizing the Kagman family, Crisostomo was arrested with his criminal friend was for possessing “ice”.

In August 2007 Crisostomo was arrested for burglarizing the former Marianas Cable Vision office in Susupe. Crisostomo, his brother Calistro Crisostomo (another career criminal) and William Jerome Deleon Guerrero “stole from MCV a safe box containing $34,319.25 in cash, checks, and credit card payments.” A female being interviewed in another criminal case tipped off the police to the criminals, noting that Joseph Crisostomo had told her that the co-conspirators were not worried about being caught because “police don't have the equipment for the fingerprints.”

Crisostomo was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the robbery. Five years were suspended. He was released from prison on December 18, 2011 and placed on probation. Less than a month later, in January 2012 he was discovered at a secluded beach in possession of "ice."  It was in February 2012 that he was arrested for possession of a controlled substance and for violating his probation.

In February 2012 during a probable cause hearing for the drug charge, Judge Joseph Camacho increased the bail of Crisostomo from $6,000 to $31,000. He was arrested for illegal possession of a controlled substance and contempt of court.

On March 1, 2012, Judge Camacho reduced the criminal's bail from $31,000 to $6,000 and placed him on house arrest. Chief Prosecutor Presley urged that the defendant should be imprisoned saying that "he posed a substantial danger to the community should he be released". The prosecutor also said that he "posed a flight risk." Perhaps at this time Crisostomo was already identified as the suspect in Emie's murder.

At the March 14, 2012 hearing Judge Camacho revoked the probation of the criminal and re-imposed the 5-year suspended sentence for his previous 2006 crime of burglary of Marianas Cable Vision. The Saipan Tribune reported:

Camacho said defendant Joseph A. Crisostomo's long criminal history and recent charges bespeak a deep lack of respect for the law, and the people of the CNMI.

“Defendant appears to have mistaken the court's previous kindness for weakness,” Camacho said. “The court expects that defendant now appreciates the extent of judicial discretion.”

The judge ordered that defendant “is not eligible for parole, early release, or the like, he is to serve day to day five years from this date.”
In March 2012, the Saipan Tribune reported the long criminal history of the murderer:
Based on probation records, beginning in 1996, Crisostomo was charged in 10 separate cases, including the one for which he is now on probation. The charges included among others, theft, burglary, assault and battery, criminal mischief, conspiracy, receiving stolen property, theft of vehicle, and possession of a controlled substance.

During approximately the same period, Crisostomo was charged in an additional 14 separate cases, which never proceeded to the OAG for prosecution. The charges included, among others, assault and battery, criminal trespass, disturbing the peace, child abuse/neglect, resisting arrest, reckless driving, assault with a dangerous weapon, and criminal use of a firearm.
Would Emie be alive today if the CNMI legal system had kept this criminal behind bars where he belonged? 

Sentencing is scheduled for May 28. Crisostomo should be locked up for life. The penalties for his crimes exceed a life sentence. There is no death penalty in the CNMI.

May her family and friends find some closure in the verdict. Rest in peace, Emie.

Crisostomo Trial: Evidence Points to His Guilt

April 12, 2014

Expert witnesses in Emie Romero's murder trial have revealed evidence that points to the guilt of defendant Joseph Acosta Crisostomo. The trial in taking place in Saipan Superior Court before Associate Judge Joseph Camacho.

In March 2014 Associate Judge Camacho ordered that one of the experienced co-counsels representing the defendant with attorney Janet King to be present at the trial at all times, since King is inexperienced as a criminal attorney. The co-counsels from Guam are Jeffrey Moots and F. Randall Cunliffe.

Emerita Romero was brutally murdered. Late in the evening on February 5, 2012, Ms. Romero was waiting for a taxi. She allegedly got into Cristostomo's car by mistake. Her lifeless body was found by FBI agents at the abandoned La Fiesta Mall February 7, 2012.

FBI expert, Linda Otterstatter testified that a hair sample taken from Romero's body matched a strand of hair that was found in the car Crisostomo had allegedly been driving the night of her murder. She also testified that black fibers taken from the car matched the leggings that were wrapped around Romero's neck. Additionally, two black-brown polyester fibers taken from the passenger side of the car matched the fibers of Romero's zorie that was found at La Fiesta.

William Bodziak, an expert in footprint, footwear and tire impressions, matched the footprints at La Fiesta Mall to those of defendant Crisostomo saying there was "no difference between the footprint impressions lifted by the FBI at the crime scene and those of Crisostomo."

Former FBI employee, Bodziak is a famed forensic scientist who now runs Florida-based Bodziak Forensics. He also testified at the O.J. Simpson trial, and the Oklahoma and VANPAC bombing trials.

Another witness, Kevin Maratita described Crisostomo's refusal to undergo a lie detector test.

Crisostomo has a lengthy criminal record of robberies, violent assaults, and possession of a controlled substance, among other charges. He is also a suspect in several cold murder cases.

From Pacific News Center:

Deadline on Extension Closer in Political Chess Game

April 10, 2014

U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez has until July 4, 2014 to decide whether or not to renew the flawed CNMI-Only Guest Worker Program. He can extend it for up to five years. Hopefully, if he extends it at all it will be for a year.

CNMI Delegate Gregorio Sablan introduced  H.R. 4296, that would  extend the program by five full years. Five more years of uncertainty and disenfranchisement for the most deserving and loyal immigrants on U.S. soil.

Certainly, the more logical, humane and just move would be to amend the CNRA to provide an immediate obstacle-free pathway to citizenship to all of the CNMI's 12,000 or less legal, long-term nonresident workers.

Any guest worker program that lacks a pathway to citizenship is a program that reduces the workers to labor units. That is exactly what the CNMI-Only Guest Worker Program does. It sucks the humanity from those who fill 90% of the private sector jobs in the CNMI.

But this is political chess, not ethical chess. The Labor Secretary hears from fellow bureaucrats and politicians, and not the nonresidents who have built the CNMI and keep its economy advancing. He has not even visited the CNMI. It is unlikely that he would do the right thing. Hopefully, he will renew the program for a year at the most.

Immigration Reform Debate Drags On . . .

April 10, 2014

Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) declared that "race has something to do with the fact that they're not bringing up an immigration bill."

ABC News reported:
"Pelosi was responding to a question about whether race factors into how Republicans deal with members of the Obama administration. She accused Republicans of being generally disrespectful to members of the administration and to women."
The House speaker said she would "rather see an immigration reform bill pass than win the elections in November."

 The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is pushing for the Obama Administration to give undocumented aliens protection from deportation if they would qualify under the policies outlined in the Senate Bill that passed last July.

Politico reported:
That CHC proposal, Pelosi said, “makes all the sense in the world,” adding that the notion that the administration doesn’t have some prosecutorial discretion on deportations is “ridiculous.” 
Former Republican Florida Governor Jeb Bush who said last week that many of the "illegal immigrants" who come to the U.S. "Do so out of an act of love for their families."

From The Washington Post:
"There are means by which we can control our border better than we have. And there should be penalties for breaking the law," he added. "But the way I look at this -- and I'm going to say this, and it'll be on tape and so be it. The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally, they come to our country because their families -- the dad who loved their children -- was worried that their children didn’t have food on the table. And they wanted to make sure their family was intact, and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families."
The former governor is married to a Columba Bush who was born in Mexico.

Bush's comments irked Republican's like Senator Ted Cruz and Speaker John Boehner who have worked to block immigration reform.

An immigration reform bill will likely only pass if the Democrats can take the House and Senate in upcoming elections.

Democrats Push Immigration Reform (Again)

March 25, 2014

The Democrats are trying to force a vote on immigration reform by filing a discharge petition tomorrow. They need 218 votes, which would include at least 24 Republican votes to get the immigration reform bill to the floor.

It is unlikely that they can get the votes that they need, but they will send the message (once again) that it is the Republicans who are blocking immigration reform.

Democrats will meet on the steps of the Capitol to announce the last ditch effort to force Republican leadership to bring immigration reform to a vote.

After the press conference they plan to file the discharge petition to get H.R. 15 heard on the floor.  H.R. 15, which was introduced October 2, 2013 by Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL),  mirrors the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate last summer. It has 199 sponsors, three of them are Republicans.

The House Speaker refused to bring the immigration bill to a vote. Republicans favor piecemeal immigration reform where they can push security and enforcement over a pathway to citizenship.

The game-playing Republicans are unlikely to allow the bill to be heard despite the fact that current polls confirm that the vast majority of voters support immigration reform.  One poll confirms that allowing a vote on immigration reform will not hurt Republicans; another confirms that 6 in 10 voters support a pathway to citizenship. 

Fitial's Trial Scheduled for April 30th

March 21, 2014

A roadside sign posted during Fitial's impeachment trial
highlights a few of his many corrupt acts.

Office of the Public Auditor legal counsel Attorney George Hasselback agreed to suspend the arrest warrant for disgraced ex-Governor Benigno Fitial if he voluntarily returned to the CNMI to face seven criminal charges.

CNMI Superior Court Associate Judge David Wiseman quashed the arrest warrant and set Fitial's pretrial hearing date for April 30, 2014. Conditions of his release will be determined at the pre-trial hearing.

From the Saipan Tribune:
Should the former governor fail to appear in court on the designated date and time, the warrant for his arrest will automatically go into full force, Hasselback said. 
Fitial should also agree, in writing, to waive any challenges to extradition if he fails to appear in court on the designated date and time.
The governor fled from the CNMI in February 2013 with his wife, Josie, to avoid facing charges. For over a year Fitial never contacted authorities even though there was an arrest warrant for his arrest.

Only after it was apparent that the CNMI Government would actively seek extradition of the CNMI's number one corruptor-in-chief, did Fitial weave a sob-story about medical issues and family issues keeping him from returning. He agreed to return if the arrest warrant was quashed. Apparently he expects the people of the CNMI to feel sorry for him, even though they are the recipients of his corrupt acts. Who seriously believes that neither he nor his wife could pick up a phone or send off an email explaining circumstances that kept him from returning the CNMI for over a year?

At the Buckingham trial last month Fitial's nephew Jermaine Nekaifes testified against the former CNMI AG Edward Buckingham. Charges against Nekaifes were dismissed in exchange for his testimony. He will also be required to testify against Fitial as a condition of the dismissal.

Fitial Wants to Go Home

March 11, 2014

Poor fugitive Benigno Fitial. The CNMI's ex-governor, number one schemer, top scammer, self-serving corrupter-in-chief wants to "go home" to the Marianas.

Friday, through his newly hired attorney, Stephen Nutting, Fitial broke the silence he has maintained for over a year while hiding in the Philippines.

The ex-governor  fled the CNMI in disgrace to avoid facing criminal charges. The charges against Fitial are: conspiracy to commit theft of services; conspiracy to obstruct justice by interference with service of process; conspiracy to obstruct justice by interference with a law enforcement officer or a witness; theft of services; misconduct in public office; obstructing justice by interference with a law enforcement officer or witness; and obstructing justice by interference with service of process related to the conspiracy to block service of a judicial summons to ex-Attorney General Edward Buckingham.

Now he wants the Superior Court to "quash the warrant of arrest against him" so he can make a voluntary appearance in court to face charges.

The fugitive claims that he was so overwhelmed with his illnesses and family tragedies that he could not communicate with any authorities in the CNMI for over a year.  (Just like he was overwhelmed with back pain so he had to have a masseuse released from federal custody to give him a massage?) I guess his wife could not communicate on his behalf either? Who in their right mind believes any of his jive?

It looks like Fitial saw Buckingham's slap on the hand and figured why not return for his slap. But unlike Buckingham, he'd stay in the CNMI to reap more destruction.

In a declaration filed in  Superior Court on Friday, Fitial stated:
“I have no desire to become a fugitive; forever unable to see the family and friends I have acquired throughout my lifetime.”
Through a chain of self-serving corrupt acts, Fitial inflicted immense damage on the CNMI and its citizens. His desires and wishes should not be a consideration.

The timing of his declaration comes on the heels of the statement by Governor Inos that he would extradite Fitial "if the Office of the Attorney General recommended pursing his return". The House passed a resolution calling for his extradition earlier this month.

May he receive the justice he deserves.

Eliminate the Need to Extend the CNMI Guest Worker Program

February 21, 2014

Despite the push by Governor Inos and U.S. Delegate Gregorio (Kilili) Sablan to convince the U.S. Department of Labor to extend the flawed CNMI-Only Transitional Guest Worker Program for another 5 years, a decision on the extension may not be made until this summer. 

Under the Consolidated Natural Resources Act, U.S. P.L. 110-229, the CNMI is to be transitioned to the U.S. immigration system.  The transitional CNMI guest worker program is set to expire on December 31, 2014 unless the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor extends it.

The law states:
(5)(A) Not later than 180 days prior to the expiration of the transition period, or any extension thereof, the Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Governor of the Commonwealth, shall ascertain the current and anticipated labor needs of the Commonwealth and determine whether an extension of up to 5 years of the provisions of this subsection is necessary to ensure an adequate number of workers will be available for legitimate businesses in the Commonwealth. For the purpose of this subparagraph, a business shall not be considered legitimate if it engages directly or indirectly in prostitution, trafficking in minors, or any other activity that is illegal under Federal or local law. The determinations of whether a business is legitimate and to what extent, if any, it may require alien workers to supplement the resident workforce, shall be made by the Secretary of Homeland Security, in the Secretary's sole discretion. 
(B) If the Secretary of Labor determines that such an extension is necessary to ensure an adequate number of workers for legitimate businesses in the Commonwealth, the Secretary of Labor may, through notice published in the Federal Register, provide for an additional extension period of up to 5 years. 
(C) In making the determination of whether alien workers are necessary to ensure an adequate number of workers for legitimate businesses in the Commonwealth, and if so, the number of such workers that are necessary, the Secretary of Labor may consider, among other relevant factors-- 
(i) government, industry, or independent workforce studies reporting on the need, or lack thereof, for alien workers in the Commonwealth's businesses; 
(ii) the unemployment rate of United States citizen workers residing in the Commonwealth; 
(iii) the unemployment rate of aliens in the Commonwealth who have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence; 
(iv) the number of unemployed alien workers in the Commonwealth; 
(v) any good faith efforts to locate, educate, train, or otherwise prepare United States citizen residents, lawful permanent residents, and unemployed alien workers already within the Commonwealth, to assume those jobs; 
(vi) any available evidence tending to show that United States citizen residents, lawful permanent residents, and unemployed alien workers already in the Commonwealth are not willing to accept jobs of the type offered; 
(vii) the extent to which admittance of alien workers will affect the compensation, benefits, and living standards of existing workers within those industries and other industries authorized to employ alien workers; and 
(viii) the prior use, if any, of alien workers to fill those industry jobs, and whether the industry requires alien workers to fill those jobs.
An extension of five years for the problematic guest worker program would be disastrous. If no immigration reform bill passes by June 2014, it would be wise for the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor to extend the program for only one year. Nothing in the law states it has to be renewed for five more hell-filled years.

Under any just guest worker program a pathway to citizenship is provided. There is no such provision in the CNMI guest worker program. In reality, the U.S. does not have a workable, just guest worker program, including the CNMI's transitional one.

The longterm nonresident workers, most of whom have lived and worked in the CNMI for 5 or more years, many for decades, would like to be granted permanent residency status, which would make an extension of the program unnecessary.

If the legal, longterm nonresident workers were to be granted the permanent residency status that they deserve, there would be no need to extend the transitional guest worker program. The CNMI would have the skilled workforce that it needs.

Governor Inos, Delegate Sablan, the Chamber of Commerce and business community want to see the program extended. Yet, they also have supported upgraded status for the legal nonresident workers. The only decent and ethical action is to push for permanent residency status, rather than to push for an extension of an expensive guest worker program that has caused uncertainty and insecurity for employees and employers.

The private sector is made up of over 90% nonresident workers who are disenfranchised and are routinely denied basic civil, human and political rights. They are grossly underpaid, and are often cheated by their employers. If everyone were to be truthful they would admit that the majority of the positions that nonresident workers have filled for decades are not 'temporary' at all. In fact, there are very few U.S. citizens or permanent residents in the CNMI willing to accept many of the low paying, labor intensive jobs that nonresidents fill. That is why they have been renewed annually year after year to fill those positions.

Even if every U.S. citizen who lives in the CNMI were to accept a position that is now filled by a nonresident worker, numerically, there are just not enough U.S. citizens living in the CNMI to fill every one. Furthermore, there are not enough U.S. citizens in the CNMI who have the skills needed to fill many of the positions. That is the reality.

The CNMI-only guest worker program is expensive and problematic for both employers and nonresident employees.  Costly fees, annual renewal applications and the length of time it takes to process applications and issue the CW permits create unnecessary hardships for all involved. Granting permanent residency to the legal, longterm nonresidents would virtually eliminate the need for the flawed program.

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez should look at the entire picture. He should review the history of the CNMI and U.S. Guest worker programs. He should investigate the status and plight of the legal, longterm nonresident workers and their families who will be greatly impacted by his decision. He should recognize that the majority of the nonresident workers have lived in the CNMI for more than 5 years, many for decades, and in reality are not 'temporary' workers, but de facto citizens who are essential to the community and economy. He should study all of the numbers and weigh all of the issues and considerations outlined in P.L. 110-229. In the end, before making any decision on an extension, he should weigh the material and human costs to the U.S. and CNMI Governments, to the employers and to the employees.

Extending the program is merely extending the problems. Again, if a bill providing status for the legal, longterm nonresident workers is not passed by the end of July, then the Labor Secretary should renew the program for the least amount of time that is feasible, which is probably a year.

The only moral solution is to grant permanent residency status to the legal, longterm nonresident workers. That is where the focus should be.