CHUUK STATE SUPREME COURT TRIAL DIVISION

Cite as Chuuk v. Rotenis , 16 FSM Intm. 398 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2009)

[16 FSM Intrm. 398]

CHUUK STATE,

Plaintiff,

vs.

RENTY ROTENIS, MANTY FITI, KASTA

NINGER, MACKARTY FITI, DOONE AISEK,

RUS ROTENIS, and DANTY FITI,

Defendants.

CRIMINAL CASE NO. 130-2007

ORDER

Camillo Noket

Chief Justice

Decided: April 16, 2009

APPEARANCES:

For the Plaintiff:       Ken Uehara

                                 Assistant Attorney General

                                 P.O. Box 1050

                                 Weno, Chuuk FM 96942

[16 FSM Intrm 399]

For the Defendant:   Michael Marco

   (Ninger)                 Office of the Public Defender

                                 P.O. Box 754

                                 Weno, Chuuk FM 96942
 

For the Defendant:   Kent Cheipot

   (Aisek)                   Office of the Public Defender

                                  P.O. Box 754

                                  Weno, Chuuk FM 96942
 

For the Defendant:    George Z. Isom

    (Manty Fiti)            Office of the Public Defender

                                  P.O. Box 754

                                  Weno, Chuuk FM 96942
 

For the Defendant:    Ben Enlet

   (Mackarty Fiti)         P.O. Box 1650

                                   Weno, Chuuk FM 96942
 

For the Defendant:     Kachie Sana

   (D. Fiti)                    Office of the Public Defender

                                   P.O. Box 754

                                   Weno, Chuuk FM 96942

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HEADNOTES

Criminal Law and Procedure – Aiding and Abetting

    The government is not required to specifically allege what acts constituted each of the defendants' alleged aiding and abetting, but the government is required, as a practical matter, to reasonably inform the defendants of what acts or omissions may result in their criminal liability. Chuuk v. Rotenis, 16 FSM Intrm. 398, 400 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2009).

Criminal Law and Procedure – Aiding and Abetting

    An information charging certain defendants with liability for anotherís crimes of assault with a dangerous weapon, aggravated assault, manslaughter, and murder will be dismissed when the only conduct clearly asserted against the defendants is that they participated in the transporting and disposal of the body after the killing To support the charges of liability for anotherís crimes, intent to participate in or ability to prevent the commission of those offenses must be shown, and, at a minimum, there must be some reasonable inference that the defendants had knowledge of or were present when the victim was struck. Liability for crimes of another cannot be based merely on conduct occurring after the crimes were already committed. But participation in the transporting and disposal of the body after the killing, if proven, results in criminal liability under other provisions of the Criminal Code. Chuuk v. Rotenis, 16 FSM Intrm. 398, 400 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2009).

Criminal Law and Procedure – Information

    An information will not be dismissed on the ground that the supporting affidavit was unreliable when the affidavit was prepared by an investigating officer who based his testimony on his own interviews with witnesses since hearsay statements of witnesses can establish probable cause. Chuuk v. Rotenis, 16 FSM Intrm. 398, 401 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2009).

[16 FSM Intrm 400]

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COURTíS OPINION

CAMILLO NOKET, Chief Justice:

Background

    In the Government's September 20, 2007 twelve-count information, seven defendants – Renty Rotenis, Manty Fiti, Kasta Ninger, Mackarty Fiti, Doone Aisek, Rus Rotenis, and Danty Fiti – are criminally charged for the death of Ekson Ruben. According to the Governmentís allegations, on the evening of April 23, 2006, defendant Rotenis struck Ruben with a re-bar causing his death. Rotenis is charged with aggravated assault, assault with a dangerous weapon, murder, and manslaughter (counts I-IV). Defendant Manty Fiti, who was allegedly present during the killing, is charged with liability for crimes of another pursuant to Chk. S.L. No. 6-66, ß 301 (counts V-VIII). According to the attached affidavit, none of the other defendants participated in the killing, but assisted only in transporting and disposing of the victimís body. They are also charged with liability for crimes of another (counts IX-XII).

Defendants Ninger, Aisek and Danty Fitiís Motions to Suppress and Dismiss

    Defendants Ninger, Aisek, and Danty Fiti each filed motions to suppress and dismiss. They assert that the information and affidavit contain misrepresentations or at least inconsistencies of fact. In essence, they contend that they Government cannot sustain charges of liability for Rotenis's acts against the victim because the Governmentís affidavit does not specify that they participated in those acts other than their assistance in transporting and disposing the victimís body.

    The Government opposed the motions to dismiss, relying primarily on the language from ß 301(a)(c), which states that a person can be held liable for the conduct of another if, having a legal duty to prevent the commission of an offense, the person fails to make proper effort to do so. The Government also asserts that whether the defendant had the intent required for liability under ß 301 is usually a matter for the trier of fact. Oppín to Ninger's Motion to Dismiss at 6 (citing State v. Jones, 642 So. 2d 804 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1994)).

    The court acknowledges that the Government was not required to specifically allege what acts constituted each of these defendants' alleged aiding and abetting. Hartman v. FSM, 5 FSM Intrm. 224, 232 (App. 1991). The Government was required as a practical matter, however, to reasonably inform these defendants of what acts or omissions may result in their criminal liability. FSM v. Xu Rui Song, 7 FSM Intrm. 187, 190 (Chk. 1995). The only conduct clearly asserted against these defendants is that they participated in the transporting and disposal of the body after the killing. Such conduct, if proven, results in criminal liability under other provisions of the Criminal Code. To support the charges of liability for crimes of another for assault with a dangerous weapon, aggravated assault, manslaughter, and murder, however, intent to participate in or ability to prevent the commission of those offenses must be shown. At a minimum, there must be some reasonable inference that these defendants had knowledge of or were present when Rotenis allegedly struck the victim. Liability for crimes of another cannot be based merely on conduct occurring after the crimes were already committed.

Defendant Manty Fitiís Motion to Suppress and Dismiss

    In his March 12, 2009 motion to suppress and dismiss, defendant Manty Fiti contends that the Governmentís affidavit should be suppressed as a result of its unreliability. Citing the courtís granting

[16 FSM Intrm 401]

of a motion to suppress in Chuuk v. Chosa, 16 FSM Intrm. 95 (Chk. S. Ct. Tr. 2008), Manty Fiti argues that the affidavit is defective because the affiant relied solely on hearsay testimony contained in a police report of an unidentified officer. Unlike in Chosa, however, where the affidavit was prepared by a counselor who reviewed the police report of an unidentified police officer, the affidavit in this case was prepared by an investigating officer who based his testimony on his own interviews with witnesses. Since hearsay statements of witnesses can establish probable cause, the court does not find that the affidavit is unreliable.

Conclusion

    Therefore, the court grants defendants Ninger, Aisek, and Danty Fitiís motions to suppress and dismiss. The court dismisses counts IX, X, XI and XII against all defendants without prejudice. The court denies defendant Manty Fitiís motion to suppress and dismiss.

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