• The Star Staff

SIPs say they lack sufficient evidence to prosecute Telegram chat case

By John McPhaul


Special Independent Prosecutors (SIPs) Miguel Colón Ortiz and Leticia Pabón said Tuesday that they do not have sufficient evidence to prosecute the participants in the Telegram chat, which brought down the government of former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares.

“Even with all the outrage that the known content of the Chat has generated, this is not enough to allow criminal charges to be filed,” said Office of the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel (OPFEI by its Spanish initials) Chairwoman Nydia Cotto Vives in a written statement. “Elements constituting a crime are required in light of the provisions of the Penal Code. We don’t have that proof.”

Cotto Vives said that “after an extensive investigative process that included interviews with 24 witnesses, the Special Independent Prosecutors could not find the quantum of evidence, or the criminal intent or negligence required to sustain criminal charges against the members of the Telegram chat.”

The determination was forwarded to the Government Ethics Office.

The SIPs also decided to refer Elías Sánchez Sifonte to the Attorney General’s Office, “due to the possible violation of Canons 28 and 38 of the Code of Ethics of the Lawyers Profession, for his intervention in a government matter.”

“The extensive and meticulous investigation downloaded by the SIPs went to the extreme of visualizing even if, in the absence of evidence to configure indictable crimes, there were legal bases for any type of attempt,” Cotto Vives said. “This did not happen either. In fact, the file received from the Department of Justice identified serious investigative limitations that, from the beginning, marked the course of the formal SIP investigation. Among them, the absence of sworn statements that involved several of the people referred to in the commission of a crime. Also, deficiencies in the preliminary analysis of the cell phone data -- of which no logical or physical analyses were made -- as well as a lack of uniform instructions from the [Department of Justice] prosecutors to the agents who intervened in the process.”

Cotto Vives said that in addition to the five police officers and the Department of Justice, the other witnesses interviewed were: Wanda Said, auditor for the commonwealth comptroller; Col. Michelle Fraley, former Police commissioner; José Enrique “Quiquito” Meléndez Ortiz, legislator; Col. Arnaldo Claudio, former Police monitor; Griselle Morales, director of the Legal Division of the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions; Fernando Gil Enseñat, former Housing secretary; Yennifer Álvarez, former press secretary at La Fortaleza; Rossy Santiago, former director of the governor’s special Central Communications Office; Cecille Blondet, from the organization Espacios Abiertos (Open Spaces); Raúl “Raulie” Maldonado Nieves, a government contractor; Denisse Longo Quiñones, former secretary of Justice; Teresita Fuentes, former secretary of the Treasury; Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, mayor of San Juan; Raúl Maldonado, former secretary of the Treasury; and Ricardo Llerandi, former La Fortaleza chief of staff; and Sandra Rodríguez Cotto, spokesperson.

Other witnesses were Julia Hernández, laboratory director of the Institute of Forensic Sciences; and Sonymar Torres and José Candelas, both specialists in forensic data analysis for the commonwealth comptroller.

As part of their investigation, the SIPs turned to the Institute of Forensic Sciences to see if there was a possibility that more in-depth analyses could be carried out in their laboratory. They also had the collaboration of the Comptroller’s specialists in forensic data analysis.

As a result, it was not possible to obtain communications content from the Telegram chat.

Likewise, the SIPs analyzed the investigations and conclusions contained in the Report of the House of Representatives for a possible residency process, as well as the Report of the Bar Association. With the interviews carried out, the SIPs tried to obtain independent evidence from the chat, thereby demonstrating the commission of a crime that would lead to the filing of criminal charges. Despite all the efforts made, this did not happen. The only direct evidence on improper actions of a person are those related to the statement of Gil Enseñat, on the intervention of the lawyer Elías Sánchez Sifonte in a government auction process, which had no consequences due to the grounds stated in the SIP report.

However, they could constitute ethical violations in light of the Code of Ethics of the Lawyers Profession, for which reason it was referred to the Attorney General’s Office.

In the specific case of ex-governor Rosselló, the SIP concluded that the criminal elements were not present in the possible crimes mentioned, due to lack of evidence to prove them.

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