By Ferdie de la Torre
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District has affirmed the conviction of retired police lieutenant Adrian Mendiola relating to the poaching of Mariana fruit bats on Rota.
The Ninth Circuit judges ruled that “although the U.S. government's case consisted of largely circumstantial evidence and required the jury to make reasonable inferences,” this circumstantial evidence was sufficient to support a finding beyond a reasonable doubt that at least one of the freezer bats was of the subspecies Pteropus mariannus mariannus.
According to court records, agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and federal law enforcement executed a search warrant for Mendiola's residence on Dec. 9, 2008, and discovered four dead fruit bats in the bottom of a freezer.
All of the freezer bats were identified as belonging to the genus Pteropus, and three out of the four were of the species Pteropus mariannus mariannus.
Fruit bats of the subspecies Pteropus mariannus mariannus are listed as “threatened.”
On May 13, 2011, a federal jury found Mendiola guilty of possession of a threatened species or wildlife, but not guilty of unlawful receipt of acquisition of threatened species or wildlife.
Mendiola argued that there was insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction because the government failed to prove that the freezer bats were of the subspecies Pteropus mariannus mariannus and that the freezer bats were taken on or after Feb. 7, 2005, the date they were listed as “threatened” on Rota. More....