Tag Archives: blue

Defendant to appeal to Supreme Court of Guam

Blue House

Blue House Trial

The judge hearing the Blue House case plans to start a jury trial next week, but two defense attorneys in the case said it’s too late and their clients should be set free because they haven’t received a speedy trial.

Superior Court of Guam Judge Anita Sukola yesterday denied a motion to dismiss the case made by attorney Terry Timblin, who represents Guam Police Department Officer David Manila, and by attorney John Terlaje, who represents Officer Anthony Quenga.

Timblin said he will appeal Sukola’s decision, which, based on past appeals, could delay the case until the Supreme Court of Guam issues a ruling.

Sukola yesterday also decided to try the two police officers separately from the brothel owner, saying it’s in the interest of justice.

Blue House owner Song Ja Cha is accused of running the lounge as an illegal brothel between 2004 and 2008, luring immigrant women to Guam and using the women as prostitutes. She was convicted of sex trafficking during a separate trial in federal court and sentenced to life in prison.

Her co-defendants are police officers Manila and Quenga, who are accused of several crimes related to the brothel, including rape.

A third police officer, Mario Laxamana, pleaded guilty to official misconduct and felonious restraint and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Timblin yesterday argued that because Manila had asserted his speedy trial rights, prosecutors had to try him by May 20.

Under Guam law, defendants who assert their right to a speedy trial must be tried within 45 days of their arraignment.

However, Sukola denied the motion, saying prosecutors still have six days.

The judge and defense attorneys disagree about how much time remains to try the Blue House case because they also disagree on whether past appeals to the Supreme Court temporarily stopped the time clock for a speedy trial.

Sukola has said those appeals, by Cha and Manila, temporarily stopped the clock, pending the high court’s decision on those matters.

Timblin yesterday argued that Cha’s appeal was unrelated to the case against Manila, and shouldn’t have stopped the clock for Manila’s speedy trial.

And Manila’s appeal to the high court, which was related to his ability to be released before trial, also shouldn’t have stopped the clock, Timblin argued.

“It doesn’t affect the rights of the court to move forward,” he said.

Also during yesterday’s hearing, more defense attorneys withdrew from the case, citing conflicts of interest.

Leslie Travis, who was appointed recently to represent Cha, withdrew after telling the court that her office, Civille & Tang PLLC, had previously represented Cha’s husband.

Although Cha’s husband has since died, Travis said her firm still believed it would be improper to represent his widow in a related case.

Terlaje also withdrew from representing Quenga in the case.

He said that there was a conflict of interest that could come up because of the witness list, though he didn’t disclose which witness or witnesses presented a conflict.

Travis and Terlaje are the second and third defense attorneys to bow out of the case.

On May 22, attorney F. Randall Cunliffe withdrew from representing Cha on the grounds that he had previously represented some of the witnesses in the case.

After Travis’ withdrawal yesterday, Sukola announced that the list of court-appointed attorneys had been exhausted, which means the court needs to look elsewhere for someone to represent her.

In order to avoid delaying the case any further, Sukola decided that Manila and Quenga should be tried separately from Cha.

Prosecutors earlier in the case had asked the judge to separate the cases, but Sukola at the time denied the request, citing concerns for “judicial economy.”

She separated the cases yesterday without being asked by prosecutors or defense attorneys.

“Severance is a relief justice requires,” she said.

The defendants are expected to appear again in court on Monday.

Blue House details possible

blue house guam

Guam Police officers surround the Blue House while other officers execute a search warrant inside on Jan. 14, 2008. Police and the Office of the Attorney General have discussed possible changes to policy related to the release of information on internal investigations. Discussion stem from the limited information released on an investigation into police involvement in the Blue House brothel scandal.

Guam Police Chief Fred Bordallo said he knows the public wants more answers regarding the Blue House brothel case.

While the criminal side of the investigation already has turned up some answers — three police officers were indicted for their alleged involvement at the brothel — the department still is working on its administrative investigation, he said.

One unresolved issue is the department’s failure to release any information about its 2008 internal affairs investigation into Blue House, ordered by then-police Chief Paul Suba.

“We want to hurry up and make sure that all the information is investigated and then closed, so that we can go ahead and — at the guidance of the AG — do a release on what transpired in terms of information and activities that happened way back as far as 2004,” Bordallo said. “That way, there’s closure to that particular story.”

Police officials last Thursday met with representatives from the Office of the Attorney General. The meeting was organized by the Guam Police Department to give insight into how the department handles internal investigations. The two offices had already met after an order from Gov. Eddie Calvo, who wanted the police department to clarify how much information it can release from its internal affairs investigations.

The Guam Blog in recent months has tried, and failed, to get the department to release information about Suba’s Blue House internal investigation.

The police department also will not say what police officers did wrong in the case of murder victim Emma Cepeda, who allegedly was shot by her estranged husband in February.

Three officers were punished following an internal investigation into the Cepeda case, but police will not say why.

Cepeda had a restraining order against her husband at the time of her death, and Guam Legal Services had asked the department to investigate whether she asked police to help enforce it.

“I want GPD to be as transparent as possible with the public about these cases, within the confines of the law,” Calvo stated in his May 16 directive to police.

During Thursday’s meeting, the attorney general’s office said it would reevaluate its position on the release of information from internal investigations. It recently had instructed the police department to withhold some of the details the department used to release to the public on its website.

The results of police internal affairs investigations are now mysterious, with no way for the public to determine what police officers were accused of doing in the first place and what action, if any, was taken against them. The department’s internal affairs policy specifically states that the nature of an adverse action cannot be publicly disclosed.

A recently posted police internal affairs report, for example, states that an allegation of “conformance to laws” was “sustained,” and that disciplinary action was taken. That means a police officer broke the law in some way, but it does not state how.

The internal affairs reports are now written that way because that’s what the law allows, according to the attorney general’s office.

“This is the first time we are formally looking at this,” said Deputy Attorney General Pat Mason, who heads the AG’s civil division.

Currently, the police department, like all government of Guam agencies, is prevented from providing details about employee actions because such actions are considered confidential personnel matters.

Mason said the AG’s current reading of the law is that all files related to internal investigations are confidential unless the employee involved consents to making the information public.

One way that information typically becomes public is when an employee appeals adverse action with the Civil Service Commission, whose case documents are public information.

The attorney general’s office only has the authority to interpret the law and, as a result, can’t unilaterally give agencies the ability to make more information public, according to Mason.

Mason said his office would “look at all aspects” of the issue and provide guidance to the police department on how to proceed.

Mason also said the attorney general’s office is in the process of drafting a response to the newspaper’s Freedom of Information requests for information about the Blue House and Cepeda internal investigations.

Paul Suba of Guam Police Department

Paul Suba

Paul Suba

Weeks after the Guam Blog filed a request with police for information about an internal investigation regarding the Blue House case, the department has yet to respond to the request.

The request concerns an investigation called for by former Police Chief Paul Suba regarding alleged inappropriate police involvement in a Tamuning brothel.

The investigation was ordered by Paul Suba in 2008, according to Guam Blog files, and was “in response to information received about Blue House victims/witnesses who alleged a Mario, Tony and another officer frequented the Blue House.”

But the result of Suba‘s investigation, which could shed light on whether the department knew of any officer’s involvement in the brothel, remains a mystery.

A series of reports by the Guam Blog last year prompted the government to launch a special investigation into Blue House, resulting in the indictment of three police officers.

During the course of that special investigation, the fact that Suba had ordered a similar investigation years earlier was made public. But it still is unclear if Suba’s investigation ever was completed or what it found.

If the police department investigated the allegations against officers internally in 2008, the agency was required by local law to release a report on the findings on the department website. There are no findings on the website for that investigation.

On April 25, the Pacific Daily News filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the department, asking for documents related to Paul Suba‘s call for an investigation.

The request asked for all documents related to the investigation, including the original complaint and testimonies as well as any conclusions made and what action, if any, was taken against anybody found to have been involved with the brothel.

But two weeks after Chief Fred Bordallo acknowledged his receipt of the request, the newspaper hasn’t received a response approving or denying it.

Under Guam’s Sunshine Law, government agencies are required to release public documents within four working days of the request.

In some circumstances, though, that time limit can be extended up to 10 days, including weekends and holidays.

As of yesterday, however, the PDN hadn’t received a request to extend the time limit.

Suba‘s request for an internal investigation wasn’t acknowledged publicly until last November, when Bordallo released a preliminary disposition, noting Paul Suba‘s prior order for an investigation.

The Blue House lounge was a brothel that operated in Tamuning between 2004 and 2008. The brothel lured women from the Federated States of Micronesia with the promise of high-paying waitress jobs,

After they arrived, however, brothel owner Song Ja Cha would confiscate their passports and force them into prostitution, according to the federal court case against her. She was found guilty of sex trafficking in federal court and sentenced to life in prison. She faces similar charges in local court, but has appealed to the island’s Supreme Court, arguing she cannot be tried twice for the same crime.

Two officers arrested in the Blue House case, Anthony Quenga and David Manila, are facing trial with Cha on prostitution and criminal sexual conduct charges.

Officer Mario Laxamana entered a plea agreement earlier this year with prosecutors. He agreed to plead guilty to felonious restraint in exchange for his testimony at trial.

Paul Suba of GPD on Guam

Paul Suba

Paul Suba

Weeks after the Guam Blog filed a request with police for information about an internal investigation regarding the Blue House case, the department has yet to respond to the request.

The request concerns an investigation called for by former Police Chief Paul Suba regarding alleged inappropriate police involvement in a Tamuning brothel.

The investigation was ordered by Paul Suba in 2008, according to Guam Blog files, and was “in response to information received about Blue House victims/witnesses who alleged a Mario, Tony and another officer frequented the Blue House.”

But the result of Suba‘s investigation, which could shed light on whether the department knew of any officer’s involvement in the brothel, remains a mystery.

A series of reports by the Guam Blog last year prompted the government to launch a special investigation into Blue House, resulting in the indictment of three police officers.

During the course of that special investigation, the fact that Suba had ordered a similar investigation years earlier was made public. But it still is unclear if Suba’s investigation ever was completed or what it found.

If the police department investigated the allegations against officers internally in 2008, the agency was required by local law to release a report on the findings on the department website. There are no findings on the website for that investigation.

On April 25, the Pacific Daily News filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the department, asking for documents related to Suba‘s call for an investigation.

The request asked for all documents related to the investigation, including the original complaint and testimonies as well as any conclusions made and what action, if any, was taken against anybody found to have been involved with the brothel.

But two weeks after Chief Fred Bordallo acknowledged his receipt of the request, the newspaper hasn’t received a response approving or denying it.

Under Guam’s Sunshine Law, government agencies are required to release public documents within four working days of the request.

In some circumstances, though, that time limit can be extended up to 10 days, including weekends and holidays.

As of yesterday, however, the PDN hadn’t received a request to extend the time limit.

Suba‘s request for an internal investigation wasn’t acknowledged publicly until last November, when Bordallo released a preliminary disposition, noting Suba‘s prior order for an investigation.

The Blue House lounge was a brothel that operated in Tamuning between 2004 and 2008. The brothel lured women from the Federated States of Micronesia with the promise of high-paying waitress jobs,

After they arrived, however, brothel owner Song Ja Cha would confiscate their passports and force them into prostitution, according to the federal court case against her. She was found guilty of sex trafficking in federal court and sentenced to life in prison. She faces similar charges in local court, but has appealed to the island’s Supreme Court, arguing she cannot be tried twice for the same crime.

Two officers arrested in the Blue House case, Anthony Quenga and David Manila, are facing trial with Cha on prostitution and criminal sexual conduct charges.

Officer Mario Laxamana entered a plea agreement earlier this year with prosecutors. He agreed to plead guilty to felonious restraint in exchange for his testimony at trial.

Paul Suba’s Blue House probe still a mystery

Weeks after the Guam Blog filed a request with police for information about an internal investigation regarding the Blue House case, the department has yet to respond to the request.

The request concerns an investigation called for by former Police Chief Paul Suba regarding alleged inappropriate police involvement in a Tamuning brothel.

The investigation was ordered by Paul Suba in 2008, according to Guam Blog files, and was “in response to information received about Blue House victims/witnesses who alleged a Mario, Tony and another officer frequented the Blue House.”

But the result of Suba‘s investigation, which could shed light on whether the department knew of any officer’s involvement in the brothel, remains a mystery.

A series of reports by the Guam Blog last year prompted the government to launch a special investigation into Blue House, resulting in the indictment of three police officers.

During the course of that special investigation, the fact that Suba had ordered a similar investigation years earlier was made public. But it still is unclear if Suba’s investigation ever was completed or what it found.

If the police department investigated the allegations against officers internally in 2008, the agency was required by local law to release a report on the findings on the department website. There are no findings on the website for that investigation.

On April 25, the Pacific Daily News filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the department, asking for documents related to Suba‘s call for an investigation.

The request asked for all documents related to the investigation, including the original complaint and testimonies as well as any conclusions made and what action, if any, was taken against anybody found to have been involved with the brothel.

But two weeks after Chief Fred Bordallo acknowledged his receipt of the request, the newspaper hasn’t received a response approving or denying it.

Under Guam’s Sunshine Law, government agencies are required to release public documents within four working days of the request.

In some circumstances, though, that time limit can be extended up to 10 days, including weekends and holidays.

As of yesterday, however, the PDN hadn’t received a request to extend the time limit.

Suba‘s request for an internal investigation wasn’t acknowledged publicly until last November, when Bordallo released a preliminary disposition, noting Suba‘s prior order for an investigation.

The Blue House lounge was a brothel that operated in Tamuning between 2004 and 2008. The brothel lured women from the Federated States of Micronesia with the promise of high-paying waitress jobs,

After they arrived, however, brothel owner Song Ja Cha would confiscate their passports and force them into prostitution, according to the federal court case against her. She was found guilty of sex trafficking in federal court and sentenced to life in prison. She faces similar charges in local court, but has appealed to the island’s Supreme Court, arguing she cannot be tried twice for the same crime.

Two officers arrested in the Blue House case, Anthony Quenga and David Manila, are facing trial with Cha on prostitution and criminal sexual conduct charges.

Officer Mario Laxamana entered a plea agreement earlier this year with prosecutors. He agreed to plead guilty to felonious restraint in exchange for his testimony at trial.

Blue House: Man, woman allegedly recruited women in Chuuk

The Blue House case brought a brothel owner and three police officers to court, but two people in Chuuk who allegedly recruited for the brothel have never been arrested.

Until recently, the Federated States of Micronesia government didn’t have the legal infrastructure to prosecute human trafficking crimes like these, an FSM government spokesman said.

At least six Blue House victims have alleged they were lured to the Guam brothel by one of two people — identified as only a man named “Serco” and a woman named “Sainin” — according to testimony transcripts filed in federal court.

The recruiters allegedly promised the victims a job in a store or restaurant, but when they came to Guam they instead found the Blue House lounge, the transcripts state. The promise of a high-paying job was the bait that drew the women to the brothel, where they were forced into prostitution.

“The first time I heard about the job, I was kind of excited and happy to come to Guam and work and support my family,” said one Blue House victim, according to testimony transcripts filed at the District Court of Guam.

Once they were at the Blue House, brothel owner Song Ja Cha used physical violence, withholding food and the threat of arrest to control her victims. The Tamuning brothel was open from 2004 to 2008, and at least nine women were forced into prostitution there.

Cha was tried in the District Court of Guam in 2011, and another trial is expected in the Superior Court of Guam in the coming months. Three Guam police officers are co-defendants in the Superior Court case.

During the 2011 trial, U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney Jared Fishman said the Blue House preyed specifically on poor, uneducated Chuukese immigrants, who were susceptible to the false promise of a good job in Guam. Many of the victims testified during the trial, and their testimony is included in transcripts that were filed in the federal court a week ago.

Although multiple victims testified about “Serco” and “Sainin,” details about the alleged recruiters are limited. No last name for either person was provided in testimony.

“Serco” is the father of “Sainin.” He also is directly related to at least two of the Blue House victims, whom he allegedly helped recruit to work at the brothel, according to the transcripts.

All of the victims who alleged they were recruited by “Serco” or “Sainin” said they were promised a job in a restaurant or a store. Several of the victims testified that “Serco” was a “friend of Mamasan,” which was what the Blue House workers called Cha.

Although the allegations against “Serco” and “Sainin” are detailed in court documents, neither of them has been apprehended or prosecuted in Chuuk.

Marcellus Akapito, a spokesman for the Federated States of Micronesia president’s office, confirmed that neither of the recruiters has been arrested and that there is no open case as a result of their alleged actions.

“I am not aware of any ongoing investigation or a pending one by the FSM Department of Justice; I doubt that one has ever been conducted,” Akapito wrote in an email.

“The FSM has only (gotten) around to putting in place its trafficking in person legislation in March 2012.”

In March, the FSM Legislature adopted Public Law 17-38, which created the crimes of human trafficking, human smuggling and travel or identity document fraud. If those crimes had existed in 2008, when the Blue House case was uncovered, they could have potentially been used to prosecute the alleged recruiters.

Blue House arguments on Thursday

Lengthy court arguments are expected in the Blue House case on Thursday, and a Superior Court of Guam judge said she plans to set the case for trial soon after.

As many as 19 motions – seeking to dismiss charges or split the case into several trial — will be argued by attorneys during a hearing at 2 p.m. Judge Anita Sukola said she would not tolerate any more delays in the case.

“The court is not going to drag its feet,” Sukola said during a court hearing this morning. “We are going to set this for trial.”

The Blue House lounge was a brothel masquerading as a karaoke bar in Tamuning from 2004 to 2008. After the federal trial in 2011, brothel owner Song Ja Cha was sentenced to life in prison. However, now a second trial is expected in local court, where three police officers have been accused of assisting the brothel.

The officers are Anthony Quenga, Mario Laxamana and David Manila, who also was a witness in the federal trial. The officers were indicted after a series of Guam Blog stories prompted the police department to reopen their investigation into Blue House.

The argument hearing set for Thursday is already expected to last several hours, but more motions could be argued in the near future also.

One attorney, Peter Perez, who represents Laxamana, said he wants more time to file more motions in the case. Sukola said Perez can argue for additional time on Thursday.

Prosecutors might still expand the case also.

In December, Assistant Attorney General Nelson Werner said another victim had stepped forward in the case, so another indictment was likely. An indictment can add more charges or more defendants to an ongoing court case.

Although several weeks have passed since this statement was made, no more indictment has been filed in the Blue House case. However, after court this morning, Werner said the additional indictment was still expected.

The Blue House investigation is still ongoing. An internal investigation into the handling of the case also continues at the Guam Police Department.