By Jacob B.T. Nakamura
(Tumon, Guam) In federal court filings today, Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig and his girlfriend, Evelyn Atalig, accuse Federal Bureau of Investigation lead agent Haejun Park of witness tampering.
In the 13-page Joint motion for sanctions for ex parte expert witness communication and attempted expert witness tampering, the Ataligs filed declarations by Dr. Gregory Vecchi, Steven Pixley, and attorney David Banes, testifying about a phone call by Mr. Park to Dr. Vecchi, where assistant United States Attorney Eric O'Malley allegedly was listening in on.
Dr. Vecchi was contacted by the Ataligs's defense attorneys on March 5, 2020 to testify on behalf of the defense about the "coercive and misleading effect of the way the government's investigative agents used in this matter when interviewing witnesses in this case, and the significance of certain Henthorn materials of the agent involved in this case."
The agent referenced is Mr. Park. Henthorn materials generally are the personnel documents of a government witness (Mr. Park in this case) that tend to discredit the government witness and contain exculpatory information about the witness. In this case, Dr. Vecchi was asked to be an expert witness to discredit Mr. Park's testimony against the Ataligs.
One day later, on March 6, 2020, the defense team filed a joint motion to amend their witness list to add Dr. Vecchi.
According to Dr. Vecchi's affidavit to the U.S. District Court of the Northern Mariana Islands:
"On or about the evening of March 7, 2020 I received a telephone call from FBI Special AgentHaejun Park. SA Park and I briefly served together abroad in 2004.
"I had not spoken to SA Park since 2004 and was surprised to receive the call. SA Park talked to me for several minutes about our previous assignment together before revealing that he was the case agent in US v. Atalig.
"SA Park gave me the impression that the prosecution has a strong case. I got the impression he wanted me to feel that I was joining the wrong team by being a defense expert witness.
Based on the subjects and SA Park’s tone, I had the distinct impression that SA Park was trying to dissuade me from being an expert witness for the defense.
"SA Park also asked what matters I would testify on. I told him that I had not yet reviewed materials due to waiting for the approval of the budget and approval of my appearance, but I knew the general topics of my testimony.
"SA Park also said several disparaging things about the defense investigator, remarking negatively on his character and work history.I found the phone call to be unprofessional and inappropriate.
"I later learned that Assistant United States Attorney Eric O’Malley asked the defense attorneys whether they were sure they wanted to call me as an expert witness as I would speak highly of SA Park. My previous assignment with SA Park was approximately 3 months long and I could only speak to that limited experience. Further, I was not aware that the call with SA Park would be used to attempt to persuade the defense not to call me as an expert witness.
"I also later learned that AUSA O’Malley told defense attorneys that he listened in on the call with Park. I was not aware at the time of the call that the prosecutor was also listening.
"I also later learned that AUSA O’Malley told defense attorneys that SA Park did not make disparaging remarks about the defense investigator. That is not true."
The affidavits by Mr. Pixley, counsel for Ms. Atalig, and Mr. Banes, counsel for Mr. Atalig, support Dr. Vecchi's affidavit.
Click here to view the filing.