Motion denied to disqualify Lujan as Mark Smith's lawyer - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Motion denied to disqualify Lujan as Mark Smith's lawyer

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Attorney Mark Smith is the one who faces federal charges, but it's his attorney David Lujan who's in the hot seat. In court on Wednesday, parties argued whether Lujan should be disqualified from the case as he may serve as a potential witness in trial ahead.

Both men served as legal counsel for GHURA. Both men had rental units under the Section 8 program. And while the government argues the men have "strikingly similar" experiences with the housing agency, it's not enough to disqualify Lujan from representing defendant Mark Smith.

This according to District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands Chief Judge Ramona Manglona after hearing two hours of oral argument on Wednesday morning.

Smith was indicted on 56 counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering, and theft of government property. While serving as legal counsel for GHURA he's alleged to have profited from the Section 8 program. He did so by transferring his properties to friend Glenn Wong, his co-defendant in the case.

At issue today is a letter Lujan wrote to Housing and Urban Development back in May 2003. That waiver noticed HUD officials of Lujan's potential conflicts serving both as legal counsel and a landlord with Section 8 rentals. Years later, the government states Lujan's waiver was denied. Smith would later succeed Lujan but whether Lujan ever noticed Smith to submit a similar waiver cannot be revealed due to attorney-client privilege. The answer to that question could prove valuable to the government's case in chief.

Arguing in Lujan's defense today was co-counsel, LA-based attorney Gregory Nicolaysen who appeared via teleconference. Nicolaysen argued that it appears the government is trying to piggyback on Lujan's personal experience with the agency. Defense further argued that the government may not even have an indictable offense.

Lujan will proceed as Smith's legal counsel. Although trial is set for next month, parties noticed the court of potential delays considering there is an estimated 90,000 pages worth of discovery in addition to defense's intent to file a motion to dismiss.

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