Defendants plead not guilty: Defense may call more officers as witnesses

Former Blue House brothel owner Song Ja Cha is escorted to her seat at the Superior Court of Guam past co-defendants, Guam Police Officers Mario Laxamana, seated left, David Manila, seated wearing orange, and Anthony Quenga, obscured, on Nov. 26. Pacific Daily News file photo

Many Guam police officers could be called as witnesses in the Blue House trial, and a defense attorney said yesterday that the involvement of those officers will prompt new motions in the controversial case later this week.

William Pole, who represents Blue House suspect Officer David Manila, said yesterday that he plans to subpoena the “numerous officers” who are named in discovery documents in the brothel case.

Those subpoenas most likely will lead to the officers becoming witnesses in the trial, which is set for January, Pole said. He wouldn’t discuss what role the officers played in the case.

“I can’t comment on that,” Pole said. “All I can say is that I will be filing additional motions based upon the involvement of these officers; … I will be filing new motions on Friday.

The Blue House case focuses on a brothel that operated in Tamuning between 2004 and 2008.

The case recently expanded to include the indictment of three police officers who allegedly assisted the brothel. The police department is investigating whether anyone attempted to cover up the allegations against the officers.

During a Superior Court of Guam hearing yesterday, four suspects in the case — brothel supervisor Freda Eseun and officers Manila, Mario Laxamana and Anthony Quenga — pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Brothel owner Song Ja Cha also was scheduled to enter a plea of not guilty, but her hearing was delayed due to problems with her Korean translator. Cha intends to plead not guilty, said defense attorney Jeff Moots.

The five suspects face a total of 26 charges and more than 60 counts, including charges related to criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping, prostitution and official misconduct.

A sixth suspect, Saknin Weria, another Blue House supervisor, is negotiating a plea agreement, said her attorney, public defender Peter Sablan. Weria is set to return to court Monday to finalize her plea deal.

It was during that court hearing yesterday that Pole first mentioned his plan to subpoena numerous officers.

Pole asked that prosecutors turn over badge numbers of all the officers named in the discovery documents so he can prepare subpoenas. Assistant Attorney General Nelson Werner tried to object — arguing that the defense attorneys already had the officers’ names — but the judge intervened.

“Get it for them,” Judge Anita Sukola told the prosecutor.

The Blue House court hearing also included two bench conferences, which are private conversations held between attorneys and the judge. Defense attorneys Peter Perez and Leevin Camacho — who represent Laxamana and Quenga, respectively — each called for a bench conference.

After the hearing, Camacho said the second conference was about which attorney would represent Quenga if the case went to trial in January.

Cha, Eseun and Weria were first indicted in 2008 for their alleged crimes at the Blue House lounge, and all three suspects already have been convicted in a parallel case in federal court. Cha already is serving life in prison.

However, the case in local court is the only one in which police officers were indicted.

The officers were arrested after the police department reopened an internal investigation into allegations that officers frequented the brothel and helped Cha control her victims.

The police department reopened the investigation after a series of articles in the Guam Blog provided more information about alleged police involvement at Blue House.

Translator problems

Although Cha was prepared to enter a not-guilty plea yesterday, her hearing was delayed after attorneys discovered that her translator was not explaining the court proceedings to her appropriately.

Werner said he was concerned about translator errors because Cha already is appealing her federal conviction using a similar argument.

In that case, Cha argued that her federal court translator intentionally misled her during trial, then stole money from her bank accounts while she was incarcerated.

Cha’s appeal is filed with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California.

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