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GPD Officer in Blue House case receives 30 years in prison

Anthony Quenga

Former police officer Anthony Quenga wipes tears from his eyes after listening to testimony from his sister during his sentencing hearing in court on April 18. Superior Court of Guam Judge Anita Sukola handed down a sentence of 30 years to Quenga in the Blue House brothel case.

Anthony Quenga, the second former Guam police officer convicted in the Blue House case, was sentenced this morning to 30 years in prison for rape, kidnapping and promoting prostitution.

During the hearing, friends and family of Quenga testified on the former officer’s behalf asking Superior Court Judge Anita Sukola to consider the former officer’s history as a police officer and relationship with his family.

Former Guam Police Chief Paul Suba also testified on Quenga’s behalf, calling the man “exemplary on almost all occasions.”

Quenga, when given an opportunity to speak, maintained his innocence, saying the 519 days he’s been in jail have “felt like I’ve been in a bad dream.”

“Your honor,” he told the judge, “I know I was convicted. I still stand my ground that I am innocent.”

Quenga closed his statement, telling the court that “they’ve got the wrong Tony.”

Quenga received the maximum sentence for nearly all of the crimes of which he had been convicted, receiving sentences ranging from one to 30 years.

His longest sentence was for a conviction of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and attempted first-degree criminal sexual conduct, for which Quenga received 30 years.

He will be able to serve all his sentences concurrently.

3 military personnels attacked on Guam

Three active duty military personnel were brought to Naval Hospital Guam Saturday night after a group of men attacked them in Tumon, according to Guam police.

It was the second time in a week service members reportedly have been attacked in Tumon.

The Guam Police Department is asking the public to come forward if they have any information about the incident.

GPD spokesman Officer A.J. Balajadia said the service members were attacked by a group of about 10 men, described by police as local.

The attack occurred around 9 p.m. Saturday night near the Slingshot in Tumon, Balajadia said in a press release. Police will review security camera footage to determine what took place.

On Nov. 16, six sailors were sent to Naval Hospital Guam after a large group attacked them with bats, clubs and pipes near Acanta Mall in Tumon, according to a press release from Joint Region Marianas.

“(Police Chief Fred Bordallo) is taking these types of incidents against our military personnel seriously and will work with our military counterparts in charging any individual involved in these assaults,” Balajadia said in his release.

Anthony Quenga and David Manila found guilty!

Anthony Quenga and David Manila found guilty

Anthony Quenga and David Manila found guilty

Guam Police Department Officers Anthony Quenga and David Manila were found guilty on all charges, including kidnapping and rape, in the Blue House brothel case.

Jurors completed their deliberations today. The verdicts were read this afternoon at the Superior Court of Guam.

The Blue House karaoke lounge was a front for a brothel, which opened around 2004 until it was shut down in 2008.

The two officers helped Blue House brothel owner Song Ja Cha force women into prostitution, threatening them with arrest if the women failed to do Cha’s bidding — which included providing sex to paying customers.

Cha was tried in District Court and sentenced to life in federal prison. She faces charges in local court.

Witness Identifies GPD Officers in Blue House Guam

A third Blue House worker spoke to the jury yesterday, identifying Officers Anthony Quenga and David Manila as two of three Guam police officers who visited the brothel before it was shut down in 2008.

The woman, identified as K.C., is the prosecution’s sixth witness to testify in the ongoing case against Manila and Quenga, who are accused of helping Blue House owner Song Ja Cha force women into prostitution at the Blue House lounge.

K.C. told the court through a translator that three police officers visited the lounge while she worked there as one of the lounge’s prostitutes.

She said all three officers went into the lounge’s VIP rooms at some point, though she never saw them drink.

Another worker testified Wednesday that she did see the officers drink while in uniform.

K.C. said she only knew the names of two officers: “Tony” and “Mario.” She identified Quenga as “Tony” yesterday in court, but said Mario wasn’t present.

She said she didn’t know the name of the third officer, but was able to identify him as Manila.

K.C. said she never spoke to any of the officers and none of the officers spoke to her.

Prosecutors have argued in the past that the officers personally threatened to have the women arrested if they ever tried to escape Blue House.

K.C. also testified that she was never paid for working at the Blue House, except for the occasional $20 to go shopping.

Sylvia Stake, who represents Quenga, confronted the woman about that statement, noting evidence that K.C.’s name is on a Western Union receipt, which she argues it suggests that the woman sent money to her family in Chuuk.

Terry Timblin, who represents Manila, noted that K.C. had received money following the federal trial that convicted Cha.

At the time, K.C. said she wasn’t sure how much money she received, but said later that it totaled about $37,000, all of which she gave to her mother.

Timblin asked her if she believed she would be paid following this trial.

“I dunno,” said K.C.

Allegations of abuse

K.C. also testified about alleged abuses at the Blue House, saying she was both beaten and dragged over broken glass by Cha and a supervisor after K.C. walked into a VIP room with the supervisor and a customer inside.

She also said she was forced to have an abortion after she got pregnant at the lounge.

“Did you want to have that baby?” asked Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Quan.

“Yes,” said K.C.

Manila and Quenga are charged with several crimes such as kidnapping and prostitution-related crimes. They also are charged with sex crimes.

The trial continues today. Another Blue House worker is expected to testify. After her, the prosecution plans to call Freda Eseun, a brothel supervisor, to the stand.

Jury selection for Manila’s, Quenga’s case set for today

Guam Police Department

Guam Police Department

The process of selecting a jury in a prostitution case allegedly involving two Guam police officers is expected to begin today — years after the brothel that fronted as a karaoke lounge was shut down.

Jury selection and trial in the Blue House case for officers David Manila and Anthony Quenga is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. in Superior Court of Guam Judge Anita Sukola’s courtroom, according to the Judiciary of Guam calendar.

This afternoon, defense counsel and prosecutors will question potential jurors before selecting the final 12 for the trial. Alternates also will be selected.

The officers face various charges, including kidnapping and compelling and promoting prostitution. The Blue House lounge operated from 2004 to 2008, when it was shut down.

Opening statements for the trial will begin after the jury is seated in the coming days. The case is expected to take anywhere from four to six weeks, attorneys have said.

That’s assuming that no other delays will occur in the trial. Manila and Quenga also have other hearings, including a 9 a.m. pre-trial conference, and motion hearings for later this morning.

Joshua Tenorio, the Judiciary’s director of Policy, Planning and Community Relations, said there’s a possibility that issues brought up at the conferences or hearings could delay the jury selection, though he couldn’t say what motions would be discussed today.

Tenorio did note that Sukola wants the trial to start quickly, as at least one other high-profile trial is expected to start soon.

Prosecutors’ case

According to documents filed in the Superior Court of Guam, prosecutors aim to show that the Blue House lounge and the adjacent Cha Cha Club were opened by brothel owner Song Ja Cha and her husband sometime in 2003 or 2004. Certain police officers, whom Cha referred to as “friends,” frequented the club beginning in 2005.

Those friends allegedly were used to intimidate the girls and women brought from Chuuk to keep them in line if they tried to get out of performing their duties, which included enticing customers to order drinks and to go back to the VIP rooms and performing sexual acts.

Girls and women recruited in Chuuk with the promise of well-paying jobs came to Guam only to have their passports taken, be forced to work in the brothel and be locked up every night, documents state.

“The front entrance door and the rear exit were padlocked from the outside,” documents state. “The windows, if any, were covered with bars.”

On occasions when they were allowed outside of Blue House, they weren’t allowed to talk to other Chuukese living on Guam and were kept under the watchful eye of supervisors, documents state.

A series of stories in the Pacific Daily News about alleged police involvement in the brothel prompted a special investigation which resulted in the indictment of the officers.

Charges

Blue House lounge owner Song Ja Cha, who is now being charged separately from the two officers, also is expected in court today for a criminal trial setting.

The defendants are charged with multiple counts of kidnapping, felonious restraint, official misconduct, and compelling and promoting prostitution, according to court documents.

Quenga also is jointly charged with Cha of first-degree and second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Delays in trial

The trial has seen a series of delays. Two were due to appeals filed in the Supreme Court of Guam by Cha, who argued she was being tried twice for the same crime, and by Manila, who wanted justices to allow him to be released until trial.

Cha was convicted in federal court of sex trafficking and sentenced to life in prison.

There was another delay when attorneys representing Cha told the court they want to withdraw from the case.

Cha’s case was then severed out of concern for the speedy-trial rights of the two officers.

The trial against Quenga and Manila was then scheduled to start last month, but they waived their right to a speedy trial.

Separate cases

After her case was severed from Manila and Quenga‘s, Cha waived her right to a speedy trial.

Cha would lure Micronesian woman, mostly from Chuuk, with promises of high-paying waitress jobs, according to Guam Night.

The brothel was shut down in 2008 during a police raid, and Cha and two supervisors were arrested.

The supervisors have entered plea agreements.

In addition to Quenga and Manila, a third police officer was indicted in the case. Officer Mario Laxamana pleaded guilty to his involvement in the case and agreed to assist prosecutors in the upcoming trial on Guam.

There currently are 82 witnesses for all parties in the case who could testify before the court. Sukola has noted many of the witnesses are duplicated in prosecution and defense lists.

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.