Saipan Tribune

High Profile- One of these such cases was a five year old "cold case" murder file with no evidence or suspects that I personally oversaw, re-investigated, suspects were identified, successfully extradited from the United States and successfully prosecuted. This was done with the able skill of my senior assistant Phil Tyndingo. This was a highly controversial case by reason of both time lapse and island families who were of local descent and a victim who was Chinese. It became known as the "Yellow House" murder.

The most famous of all (even to this day) on the island that was handled by me personally, again with no suspect or evidence at the beginning. This has become famously known as the Alfred Cruz Al dan murder case and it was one in which involved heavy influence of both the American and Japanese governments. I still get thrills thinking about this one and but for a stroke of good fortune, an unrelated poker parlor robbery and a faulty ATM machine this one would have never been solved.

I was almost never involved in any misdemeanors as I had insufficient time with the more serious felonies and although involved in every one of these to some degree tried very few because of resources, administrative duties with Customs, Immigration & Border control as such was the responsibility of my office.

I personally tried a high profile murder case that was long and jury involving approximately eight days that the jury returned an acquittal verdict. It was one of those rare cases that was lacking in evidence but yet my office believed very strongly in the guilt of the accused and I felt that because of these factors that it was one that the Chief Prosecutor himself must try and the people themselves must decide. Despite the verdict I was satisfied because we had incarcerated the defendant eight months, the jury made the decision of innocence and soon thereafter he left the island.

Earlier High Profile Cases- As a former criminal defense attorney during the years of 1991-1996 I was quite familiar with high profile cases. I can recall not less than fifteen Texas Statewide television coverage cases mostly emanating from the city of San Antonio.

One such case was famously known as the "Gang Rape Case" which was tried over a week period and was mentioned in a Newsweek Magazine article entitled "Violence in The Streets". Another case was of such notoriety that I was invited to Chicago and appeared on a Nationally syndicated & Televised talk show entitled "Who Stole My Baby" ( State of Texas vs. Margarita Gonzalez)

Two times I was invited and appeared in New York City as a guest commentator on Court TV ( Dec.96' & Feb 97') with Chief Legal Correspondent Fred Graham and I was on the front cover and was the subject of a feature story in the National Law Journal in April Edition of The National Law Journal ( Cabela's GC Starts From Scratch, full story attached).

In these years I conducted many jury trials as first chair but as a criminal defense attorney and most of these were of considerable profile media coverage and were of jury trial nature and lengthy.

Feature story "NMI's chief criminal attorney, DAVID W. HUTTON"

By John Ravelo, Reporter

At age 9, David W. Hutton began dreaming of becoming a lawyer, a dream that got started by the presence of a law office near the barbershop where his father used to bring him for his regular haircut in Pulaski, Tennessee, a small town with a population of about 5,000.

As a young boy, Hutton said he was in awe of the lawyer who held office near his hometown's barbershop, the late Atty. Jim Hagen, who used to call him fondly as "Little Dave."

"One day, he [Hagen] took me to his office and there was a large library with books all over. In my mind, that's when I decided what I wanted to do," Hutton recalled.

His interest in becoming a lawyer did not fade, even though Hagen killed himself several years later inside his law office when Hutton was just 13-and incident that was emotionally devastating to the "wannabe" attorney. He said the incident threw one aspect of the profession into sharp relief-that the legal profession entails great responsibility.

Hutton, however, kept his eye on his dream, not an easy task for a teenager belonging to a big family of humble beginnings. He worked as a bartender and block mason to support his college and law school education at the University of Northern Alabama and the California Western School of Law before finally becoming an attorney in 1983 at the tender age of 24.

Now 45, Hutton leads the CNMI Attorney General's Office's as its chief prosecutor, tasked with a duty to enforce the rule of law and sending criminals to jail. A lawyer for 21 years now, Hutton has had extensive experience in his profession, practicing in diverse areas of law in private, corporate and government sectors.

"I think the legal profession is the finest profession in the world because law is the cornerstone of our society," Hutton said. "Were it not for the legal profession, I wouldn't have gone very far."

As a lawyer, Hutton said he finds his greatest fulfillment in interacting with people and accomplishing things that have significant impact on their lives.

Beginning 1984, Hutton established the David Hutton & Associates, a private law firm engaged mainly in litigation and appellate practice in state and federal courts in Mississippi and Louisiana. He later engaged in law practice in Texas, maintaining the law firm until 1996.

The litigation attorney then joined the corporate world as vice president and general counsel for Village Properties Inc., a major real estate development firm headquartered in his Pulaski hometown. The company's holdings included 23 retail shopping centers, with tenants such as Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Belk, JC Penney, Payless Shoes, and Sears, among others.

Hutton then moved to Sidney, Nebraska in the year 2000 and became the general counsel for Cabela's, the world's largest global retailer of hunting, fishing and outdoor gear. Hutton created the first in-house legal department at Cabela's, established the legal framework and philosophy of the corporation, and helped drastically reduce costs arising from legal disputes.

Hutton and his wife Robbin came to Saipan in June 2002, both joining the AGO's Civil Division. As Assistant Attorney General, Hutton initially handled the controversial Bank of Saipan receivership case on behalf of the government, together with now Civil Division chief Benjamin Sachs.

In August of that year, when then chief prosecutor Clyde Lemons Jr. resigned from the post, the shocking news broke out about the grisly murder of a Japanese tour coordinator by an employee of the CNMI's premier tourism marketing arm, the Marianas Visitors Authority.

Then attorney general Ramona Manglona tasked Hutton to handle this controversial case, counting on Hutton's former 14-year experience as a criminal defense lawyer, even though he still maintained his post at the Civil Division.

Hutton, together with assistant attorney general Joseph Taijeron Jr., successfully prosecuted the first-degree murder case and obtained a 50-year prison sentence for the defendant-the highest prison term meted out by a CNMI court. Manglona officially appointed Hutton as chief prosecutor on March 21, 2003.

"The workload is very heavy. The responsibility is very diverse. At times, the job is overwhelming, sometimes dangerous, but always humbling," Hutton said.

Hutton said he begins work regularly as early as 5:30am and always misses lunch due to the heavy workload at the AGO's Criminal Division. As recently as Memorial Day Monday, he had just arrived from an off-island trip, only for police officers to arrive at his residence in the wee hours, requesting that he do urgent applications for arrest and search warrants.

Notwithstanding the security risk entailed by his position, Hutton takes pride in managing to reduce the number of pending criminal cases from 2,176 to just between 800 to 900 at present. As chief prosecutor, the fight against illegal drugs is his top priority.

Hutton expressed gratitude to the support given to him by AG Pamela Brown, Deputy AG Lemons, his fellow AAG's, the Department of Public Safety's Criminal Investigation Bureau, the AG's Investigative Unit, and especially his staff.

"Although there are opportunities available to me in the corporate world, I have literally developed a love affair with serving the people of the Commonwealth. I truly am enthralled with being a public servant and serving the people of the islands. It is not only a great responsibility, but also a great privilege," he said.

Hutton and his wife Robbin are blessed with two sons-Chaz, 11, and Tyler, 10-and daughter Tori, 8.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Grisly murder case goes to court

By John Ravelo

Exactly four years ago, authorities found the lifeless body of Rong Zhou lying facedown in a pool of blood inside his Yellow House Karaoke in San Jose, after two men mauled and repeatedly stabbed him on March 1. Police said the trader's wallet was missing.

Yesterday, one of the two suspects in the grisly murder of the Chinese businessman-Franklin Cabrera Cepeda Jr.-appeared at the Superior Court to face the criminal charges against him.

Cepeda's appearance in connection with the murder case was his first. He was unassisted by a lawyer, but Associate Judge Juan T. Lizama apprised Cepeda of his rights as a defendant, including his right to be represented by an attorney.

Lizama imposed no bail on Cepeda upon the recommendation by Assistant Attorney General Philip Tydingco and CNMI chief prosecutor David Hutton. The judge set a preliminary hearing on March 11.

Cepeda had served jail time at a federal prison facility in Los Angeles, California for a conviction on mail fraud by the Guam federal district court.

Elements of the U.S. Marshal's Fugitive Apprehension Task Force nabbed Cepeda's co-defendant, George Ilo, in Louisville, Kentucky, sometime last year.

Police investigation disclosed that Ilo and Cepeda were just 22 when they allegedly killed Zhou, who died of multiple stab wounds and cuts on his chest, abdomen and hands. Zhou reportedly refused to give the defendants money when the latter demanded for it.

Ilo and Cepeda are facing charges of first- and second-degree murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, robbery, theft and conspiracy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Brown names Hutton as lead lawyer for garment-related cases

By John Ravelo, Reporter

Attorney general Pamela Brown relieved David Hutton as chief prosecutor, appointing him instead as the lead lawyer who would coordinate law enforcement related to the CNMI's garment industry.

Hutton's first assignment would be to look into possible violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act by garment companies, according to Brown.

She disclosed Hutton's transfer of assignment yesterday, naming assistant attorney general Jeff Moots as the new chief prosecutor.

She also announced the appointment of Jay Livingstone as the new civil division chief, replacing assistant attorney general Benjamin Sachs, who had reportedly indicated his intention not to renew his employment contract that would expire on Aug. 1.

Brown's announcement of the reorganization came about amid rumors that Hutton would be relieved from his post as chief prosecutor for allegedly failing to notify the attorney general of an off-island trip. But Brown said that Hutton's new assignment was a "lateral" transfer from his previous post as chief prosecutor.

"It's not really a demotion by any means because I'm very happy with his work at the criminal division," Brown said.

She cited as an example the re-assignment of former chief prosecutor Kevin Lynch, who was given the task of handling labor issues to make good use of the latter's expertise at the Department of Labor.

Hutton was not present at the news briefing and could not be reached for comments as of press time.

As special attorney coordinating various legal issues in the garment industry, Hutton would act as the lead attorney in garment-related cases, according to Brown.

"It's a coordinator [position] really. He'll [Hutton] be like the lead attorney. They're [other assistant AG's] not reporting to him [Hutton]. He's not supervising them in that sense. They reporting to him just.for coordination and communication," Brown clarified.

"What I've realized is that there are so many different attorneys handling different aspects of the garment industry that I needed to have one attorney that can coordinate for me.all the services," she said.

Other assistant AG's would continue to handle garment industry-related cases, according to Brown. Assistant attorney general Deborah Covington would handle civil litigation and criminal prosecution of garment factories for nonpayment of taxes, including the pending criminal case against Sako Corp. Lynch would continue handling collection cases against factories, based on complaints of unpaid wages and the like.

Moots, the new chief prosecutor, said he would improve on the organizational structure at the AGO's criminal division to ensure that its attorneys have time and assets to prosecute cases. Moots, who was the government's environmental lawyer, said he has had experience in criminal litigation in the U.S. mainland, handling some 17 death penalty cases.

"With the changes in the garment industry, that's going to be a big focus of the civil division-to make sure that as the factories leave, they're fully paid on taxes and have complied with all our laws," said Livingstone.

Brown also disclosed yesterday the appointment of Joseph Aldan as the new chief of the Attorney General's Investigative Unit last December.