Former CNMI Governor Sentenced to Prison Time

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Benigno Fitial, former Governor of CNMI, was impeached on allegations of corruption in 2013.

Guam –  The first territorial governor to ever be impeached was sentenced for crimes committed while he was Governor of the Northern Marianas Islands.

Benigno Fitial, the former Northern Mariana’s Governor who was impeached on corruption charges, was sentenced today to one year in prison. CNMI Superior Court Judge David Wiseman sentenced Fitial. According to court documents, Wiseman offered a harsh opinion on Fitial’s actions.

“This court believes that a great harm to any society or community is corruption in any form and especially in the form of a breach of the public trust that is vested in an employee or as in this case a high ranking official, the chief executive of the government, to wit, the Governor,” said Judge Wiseman.

Fitial was originally sentenced to the maximum five-year penalty, but Judge Wiseman suspended all but one year. Fitial is ordered to pay $6,000 in fines related to his crimes.

Back in February of 2013, Fitial was impeached on allegations of corruption, he resigned as governor days later. Fitial was charged with a variety of crimes including shielding former commonwealth Attorney General Edward Buckingham from being served a court summons. Fitial was also accused of releasing a federal inmate, his personal masseuse, without proper permission.

Fitial fought the charges, arguing at one point that the Office of Public Auditor, the office that filed the complaints against him, did not have the authority to file a criminal complaint against him. Fitial was eventually found guilty of one count of Misconduct in Public Office and one count of conspiracy to commit theft of services.