‘Do the crime, get sentenced to harsh jail time’
Brief chat with Douglas Moylan, attorney general-elect
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
“That’s a lot of homework you gave me,” Douglas Moylan said in jest after receiving the list of questions we sent him via email. He promptly buckled down to work after the Guam Election Commission certified the results of the 2022 election the day after Thanksgiving. After all, he has been working on his homework since he hit the campaign trail.
He listed his priorities, along with his strategies—old and new—vowing to make it better this time.
“Criminal prosecution (violent, non-violent and government corruption) shall remain the focus of my four-year term as attorney general,” said Moylan, who carried the “Tough on Crime” campaign slogan.
“In the criminal prosecution area, tough and decisively harsh convictions and punishments will start creating the atmosphere I want to keep us safe, and to send that message of deterrence this island presently lacks. Do the crime, get sentenced to harsh jail time,” he said.
Moylan defeated the incumbent attorney general, Leevin Camacho, by a razor-thin margin of 39 votes in a tight race for the Office of the Attorney General. He lost to Camacho in the 2018 race.
Moylan is, of course, not a stranger to this job. He was the first elected attorney general after the office was converted from an appointive to an elective position. The idea was to make the OAG politically independent to keep the attorney general from being beholden to the appointing official.
One of the early conflicts he had to navigate was the attorney general’s job as the chief prosecutor and at the same time as legal counsel for government agencies. Among the most complicated cases he handled was the lawsuit he filed against the Guam International Airport Authority, challenging the airport administration’s $1 million legal service contract with a private law firm.
Moylan served from 2003 to 2007. His subsequent attempts to return to office were unsuccessful until this year.
“A result-oriented approach will be reinstated in my second term, but more refined. With my 30 years as an attorney, this AG has learned many tricks and methods that will get the client exactly what they want, efficiently and effectively,” said the 56-year-old lawyer.
His strategy, as he repeatedly mentioned during the campaign, does not revolve around a “rehabilitative” approach. “My job is law enforcement, not holding the criminals' hands or leading them in serenity walks. That’s arguably another government department’s job,” said Moylan, a Father Duenas Memorial School alumnus.
Moylan graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1988 with a bachelor's degree in business administration and sociology. He studied law at the Santa Clara University School of Law.
His first stint at the OAG was anything but uneventful. In a small community where compromises are typically negotiated behind closed doors, some frowned on his gung-ho style, which even cost his bid for reelection after the end of his term. He glutted the courts with lawsuits; some were successful, and others failed.
As he prepares to officially assume office, Moylan reflected on what he said he could have done differently. “I have never said I was perfect. My regrets include not being able to better communicate with the sitting governor to work and find a solution,” he said. “I should spend the time to see if a compromise is better.”
But as the chief prosecutor, Moylan recognized the challenge of fulfilling his commitment to the voters against the backdrop of a vindictive political environment. While willing to negotiate a compromise, Moylan vows “not do so to the extent that I betray the people’s trust or compromise away my promises to them.”
The balancing act, he said, “will be easier to achieve” this time after 16 years since he left office and with 30 years of experience as an attorney. “The main lesson I have learned is to make sure we understand exactly the need of the client (a.k.a. people, voters), and to determine the best and most efficient and effective way to meet that need,” Moylan said.
One of his most successful cases involved the government’s attempt to borrow over $350 million, which Moylan argued was a violation of the debt limitation set by the Organic Act. The case was inherited by his successor, Alicia Limtiaco. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Moylan's favor in 2007, one year after his term expired in December 2006.
During his first term, Moylan secured approximately 35 government corruption prosecutions, including the unsuccessful cases against former Gov. Carl Gutierrez. In hindsight, Moylan said he could have done things differently. “I would not have greenlighted the prosecution of former Gov. Carl Gutierrez given the quality of the evidence, his political popularity among potential and actual jurors, and the actual jury acquittal,” he said. “Unfortunately, as the people’s prosecutor, we do not have the luxury of a glass ball to guarantee the outcome of a criminal prosecution, and must rely upon the years of experience and senses of the AG.”
Another priority under Moylan's new term is the creation of the Government Corruption Division, which will follow up on reports by the Office of Public Accountability besides the leads taken by the OAG. On top of the agenda are the questionable transactions undertaken by the administration during the period of a public health emergency, which allowed the government to skip certain rules on procurement.
“The entire issue about what pandemic laws applied, as well as which fact-specific investigations will be opened by the AG’s GCD, will be researched by the GCD prosecutors, and then the evaluation process about which cases will be on the GCD’s ‘scope’ and their priorities will be considered once we take office on Jan. 23, 2023,” Moylan said.
“At the conclusion of any investigation, whether accepted by the GCD or not, or acted upon by the GCD, a report will issue that explains to the public and the media the AG office’s action. Obviously, the filing of a civil or criminal matter will in itself explain the action by the AG’s GCD,” he said.
As he prepares for more homework ahead, Moylan warns criminals what they should expect under his brand-new term: “Jail time and seeing what the inside of a prison looks like."