In District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona has denied the motion by the U.S. government to exclude the testimony of an expert witness in the trial of one of the three Chinese nationals who was charged for the shipment of 4.9 lbs. of methamphetamine worth $850,000 in December last year.
Judge Manglona denied the motion without prejudice, which means that the U.S. government may renew the motion later, at the appropriate time. Judge Manglona ruled that the expert in question will be a rebuttal witness, and the court has yet to determine whether the prosecution witness will be permitted to give expert testimony. Judge Manglona stated that if the prosecution witness is permitted to testify, then the court will be inclined to allow a defense rebuttal witness.
The motion was filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Garth R. Backe. Backe said the expert witness for the defense will testify that there is an explanation for the erratic driving behavior of the co-defendants in this case, Xi Huang and Shicheng Cai, as they are drivers from China and that defendant Zhaopeng Chen did not understand what Huang was doing.
Backe argued that the defendant’s notice fails to comply with the Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which requires a defendant to give prosecutors a written summary of any testimony that the defendant intends to use as evidence at trial. Backe argues the defendant’s summary has not complied with the requirement to describe the witness’s opinions, the bases and reasons for those opinions and the qualifications of the witness. Backe argued that the testimony of the expert witness would be improper and can be both powerful and misleading.
The attorney for plaintiff Chen, David G. Banes, replied that the defendant provided proper notice even though the U.S. government has not yet complied fully with Rule 16 about its experts, and that there is no legal basis or authority for the U.S. government’s demand that Chen be precluded from offering any testimony on the same topic as the U.S. government’s expert witness.
Chen’s co-defendants, Huang and Cai, have already pled guilty. Huang was sentenced to 188 months of imprisonment. Cai has not yet been sentenced.
Banes said per discovery materials provided by the U.S. government, Huang denied Chen’s involvement in the conspiracy when he was given a chance to talk before his sentencing. Huang was alleged to be the leader of the group. Huang’s brother, Biao Huang, committed a similar crime in 2010 and was sentenced to 135 months in prison.
Chen, Huang and Cai were indicted for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine over the shipment of 4.9 lbs. of meth worth $850,000 in Dec. 2, 2015.
Customs officers conducting a routine inspection at the Port of Saipan discovered the meth hidden in three plastic bags in one of nine 5-gallon paint buckets in a 40-foot container from Guangzhou, China, which led to the arrest of the three defendants.