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Gutierrez wants prosecutor removed from case

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Former governor Carl Gutierrez and former Government of Guam Retirement Fund Director John Rios have spent the last six years in and out of court.  While the criminal charges have been dismissed twice before, the two are gearing up to go to trial next month...but not before their attorneys argue a number of motions to have the case thrown out yet again.

Gutierrez believes Assistant Attorney General William Bischoff should be disqualified from prosecuting his criminal case.  Attorneys in the case presented arguments this morning on Gutierrez's motion to have Bischoff removed from the case. Gutierrez and Rios are accused of enhancing Gutierrez's retirement benefits by $30,000 a year.  The charges have been thrown out twice before but because of a technicality during the second dismissal, the two are back in court facing trial once again.

Defense Attorney Randy Cunliffe alleges that Bischoff went through the former governor's retirement file not at the government agency, but at the home of former Retirement Fund employee Lou Brennan Taitano.  Cunliffe told Superior Court Pro-Tem Judge Richard Benson today that it appears documents from his client's file are missing and the clues lead to the prosecutor.  The defense attorney stated that it appears Bischoff has a personal vendetta against Gutierrez, but Bischoff contends the allegations are not supported by facts.

"They were insinuating that I tampered with records," said Bischoff, "and, of course, I got a little hot under the collar about that, that insinuation that I tampered with records, but you know that's just it."

Attorney Cunliffe, however, sees things differently, saying, "If that's going to be their position, then it may require you to be a witness to come on the stand and say that's not accurate because she clearly said that Mr. Bischoff brought the file and had the file outside the retirement office and Mr. Bischoff is saying that's not true."

While Judge Benson reviews the motion to disqualify Bischoff, he'll also have to review Rios' motion to dismiss the criminal charges as well as a motion for leave, which seeks additional time to review transcripts from the previous trial and Taitano's testimony before the grand jury.  "Based on that assuming there is enough evidence then we file then an additional motion to dismiss," noted Rick Bordallo, defense attorney for Rios.

The judge has given Bordallo until Monday to file a brief on the request motion.  

Gutierrez and Rios are accused of enhancing the former governor's retirement annuity by $30,000 a year, but the previous charges were thrown out and former Gutierrez chief of staff Gil Shinohara went to trial for the same charges, but was acquitted. The defense argues Gutierrez was in fact eligible for the enhanced annuities in the Defined Benefits Plan, as well as retroactive enrollment. 

A motion to dismiss is tentatively scheduled for May 3. The hearing meanwhile is slated for May 12.

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