Hearing Over Police Activities At Guam Brothel Continues
By Cameron Miculka
HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Nov. 21, 2012) – Hearings will continue today for Guam police officersallegedly involved in the Blue House case.
Officers David Manila, Anthony Quenga and Mario Laxamana yesterday pleaded "not guilty"to all charges.
This is despite the fact that one officer, Manila, testified in federal court that he had sex with a Blue House employee after buying a "ladies drink." That testimony resulted in an internal police investigation that ultimately determined Manila had abetted prostitution.
He was allowed to keep his job. Police said disciplinary action was taken but couldn't specify the action because it's deemed a personnel issue.
Yesterday marked the second time the officers appeared in court since their indictment last week on charges stemming from promoting and compelling prostitution, kidnapping and official misconduct.
At the Superior Court of Guam yesterday, the officers were accompanied by co-defendants Song Ja Cha, who owned and operated the brothel, and Freda Eseun, a supervisor. Both women have been convicted in federal court for their involvement in the brothel case.
Today, Cha and Eseun will be arraigned in local court, where they are expected to enter their respective pleas.
They were not arraigned yesterday as the court must arrange for Korean and Chuukese translators for Cha and Eseun, respectively.
Another Blue House supervisor who was convicted in federal court, Saknin Weria, appeared in the local court with the other defendants. However, her name is no longer on the superseding indictment for the local case.
Attorneys for all three officers have filed or made plans to file motions to contest their clients' bail amounts.
Quenga and Manila, both of whom are facing charges of sex crimes, have their bails now set at $250,000.
Laxamana's cash bail is currently set at $100,000. His bail hearing is slated for today.
Tom Fisher, the attorney currently representing Quenga, argued that his client should be released on personal recognizance.
This means no cash bail would be set and the defendant is released on his own "recognizance," that is, essentially, on his word that he will return to stand trial.
Fisher argued that, considering the alleged crimes took place in 2008, Quenga did not represent a risk to the island.
Judge Anita Sukola, the judge overseeing the Blue House case, did not agree with Fisher's argument.
"He is a flight risk and a danger to the community," she said.
A full hearing for Quenga's bail and Manila's bail is slated for Monday.
At that time, the defense will push for dismissal of all charges. For example, attorneys for the defense have alleged that the officers were held extensively without being brought before magistrates.
Furthermore, Manila's attorney, William Pole, asserted that the court doesn't have jurisdiction over the case, claiming the clock has run out on the statute of limitations for the alleged crimes.
Although prosecutor Nelson Werner requested more time to be able to respond to the motions filed in court, Sukola refused, noting that, before the officers' indictment, jury selection for Cha and the supervisors' trials was supposed to begin today.
"Mr. Werner, you... represent the people of Guam. You brought this superseding indictment," she said. "We will have that hearing."
During the federal trial that led to Cha's conviction, witnesses testified that Guam police officers were regulars at Blue House, where they were offered free food and drink.
Victims also reported that officers would threaten them with arrest if they disobeyed Cha.
After a series of articles published by the Pacific Daily News prompted a renewed public interest in the case, local police and federal investigators reopened the case to determine if individual officers were inappropriately involved with the brothel.
That investigation ultimately led to the arrests of Manila, Quenga and Laxamana this past weekend.
Investigators for the Blue House case have not said whether any federal charges against the officers are forthcoming.
Furthermore, officials at a press conference Monday said the local investigation is ongoing and efforts are being focused to determine whether evidence exists pointing to a deliberate cover-up by police.
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