AG’s first witness is convicted killer, who lied to police in Moore case

The attorney general’s first witness in the Nicholas Moore trial was a convicted killer, who admitted on the stand that he lied to police about the evening of October 15, 2020. That is the night the witness – Anthony Celis – brought his neighbor, Brian Mendiola, from the driveway of his Agana Heights home to the entrance to Naval Hospital to treat a gunshot wound to the leg.

But that wasn’t the story Mr. Celis told police that evening. Under cross examination from attorney David Lujan, Mr. Celis admitted to lying to police about where he found Mr. Mendiola. Mr. Lujan described to the jury reports that Mr. Celis led police to the wrong crime scene, and that Celis’s false statements sent officers on a wild goose chase looking for bullet casings in the wrong place.

Mr. Moore is on trial for allegedly shooting Mr. Mendiola in the leg the night of October 15, 2020.

“Isn’t it true you told police a different story as to what happened that night,” Mr. Lujan asked the witness.

Mr. Celis responded, “Yeah, because I was on probation.”

“So you lied,” the defense counsel asked. “Correct,” Mr. Celis replied.

Mr. Celis could not remember many details of the evening under questioning from prosecutor Grant Olan. Mr. Olan tried to take his witness through the events of the night, showing the jury video of the crime scene and asking Mr. Celis to point out where he lives, where Mr. Mendiola lives, and where he found Mendiola laying on the driveway.

Under questioning, Mr. Celis admitted he never saw Mr. Moore or his black truck the evening of the shooting, that left Mr. Mendiola with a gunshot wound to the leg.

“The evening you testified about– did you know Mr. Moore,” Mr. Lujan asked. “Had you met Moore?”

“No,” Mr. Celis replied.

LUJAN: You don’t know what happened?


LUJAN: Tell this jury whether you saw Mr. Moore shoot Brian Mendiola.

CELIS: I didn’t see.

LUJAN: You cannot say he is the shooter?

CELIS: Correct.

LUJAN: You cannot say you saw him the evening this happened?

CELIS: Correct.

LUJAN: Was anyone else present aside from Mr. Mendiola and his girlfriend?


LUJAN: And you never saw a black Ford pickup truck that night?


Mr. Celis lives a few seconds away by foot from Mr. Mendiola’s home.

The attorney general is prosecuting Mr. Moore for the crime after removing his originally-indicted co-defendant, Eric Salone, from the current trial in June. That was when Mr. Salone entered into a deferred plea agreement with the government that traded his testimony against Mr. Moore for his freedom.

According to Mr. Lujan’s remarks on the opening day of the trial, Moore’s defense is being built around eye witness statements that Salone was the shooter, not Moore, and that the government has let the real culprit go free.

Seven men and nine women composing the 12 jurors and four alternate jurors Monday heard opening statements from prosecutor Olan and defense attorney Lujan. The lawyers portrayed what appears to be a trial that will be complicated by questionable forensic evidence, and testimonies that will conflict about who did what and when leading up to, during, and following the Agana Heights shooting.

Mr. Olan, in his opening statement, described the incident as “A drug deal gone bad.”

“Nick Moore paid to buy drugs,” Mr. Olan said. “His seller, Curtis Garrido, took off with the money. So Nick decided he wanted street justice.”

Mr. Olan said Moore drove his black truck with a passenger – Eric Salone – and that the pair drove through Agana Heights to chase Garrido to a house. “Nick and Eric chased Curtis,” he told the jury.” He told jurors that both Moore and Salone were carrying guns that Moore owned, but were not legally registered; and when they caught up with Curtis Garrido, they shot at him.

“They didn’t hit Curtis,” Mr. Olan said. “They hit his friend, Brian Mendiola.”

And that is where the reasonable doubt for the defense begins. While Nicholas Moore is the man standing trial for shooting Mr. Mendiola, even the prosecutor did not differentiate between Moore and Salone who the actual shooter was.

Mr. Lujan picked up on the glaring hole in the government’s case, and for three hours took the jury through the crime, the handling of evidence following the crime, and the testimonies of witnesses who told authorities Salone, and not Moore, was the actual shooter.

“You don’t see him here, because he cut a sweet deal with the government!” Mr. Lujan exclaimed to the jury about Salone’s absence at the defense table.

Salone initially was indicted with Moore earlier this year for shooting Mr. Mendiola on October 15, 2020. By June, Salone was removed from standing trial. He has signed a deferred plea agreement that, in summary, trades his testimony against Moore for his freedom.

Mr. Lujan told the jury the government either has been duped, or allowed itself to be duped for whatever motive there may be, because all the testimony and reliable forensic evidence points to Mr. Salone as the shooter.

“Not a single person will testify that Nicholas Moore has a 38-caliber pistol and used it that night,” Mr. Lujan told the jury. It was a 38-caliber bullet that supposedly was removed from Mr. Mendiola’s leg the afternoon following the shooting. Mr. Lujan raised doubts about the bullet itself, as a hospital error led to a failure to turn the bullet over to the Guam Police Department for a month after it was removed from Mendiola’s leg.

“You will not hear a single person say that Nicholas Moore shot Brian Mendiola,” Mr. Lujan exclaimed. “But you will hear Salone say it. You have a right to question Salone’s motive for testifying. Salone is going to get a free pass. He’s not going to go to jail. He will not spend a single day in jail.”

“Curtis Garrido said this is the man who shot Mendiola,” Mr. Lujan said, referring to Salone. “Curtis Garrido on that night said it wasn’t Nick, it was Eric who shot Brian Mendiola.”

Even the prosecutor, Mr. Olan, in his opening statements had to admit that witnesses to the crime changed their stories. He rationalized that these witnesses – his witnesses – are or were drug users with criminal histories and did not trust the police.

One of these witnesses was Mr. Mendiola himself, who when first interviewed said Moore shot him. He then recanted, and told police in a later interview that from his vantage point, he could not clearly make out who shot him.

“Brian initially said it was Nick, but then several times after said he had to go with what Curtis said because Curtis was in a better position to see who fired the pistol,” Mr. Lujan told jurors.

“The evidence will show that Curtis Garrido said, ‘I saw Nick with both his hands on that steering wheel,'” Mr. Lujan told the jurors, asking how Moore could have shot a pistol with both his hands on the steering wheel.

The trial continues Thursday in the court of Judge Alberto Tolentino.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *