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Justices consider Song's bail appeal

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Supreme Court justices have taken an appeal under advisement regarding the bail amount for 40-year-old Jimmy Chin Song. The defense for Song contends the Superior Court abused its discretion by increasing the defendant's bail amount to $250,000. 

Song remains behind bars awaiting trial on charges of manslaughter and aggravated assault for the death of 27-year-old Yunmo Ku, who died from a single blow to his head after the two got into an argument outside the Sing-A-Song Cafe in Harmon last month.

Defense Attorney Randy Cunliffe contends the original bail amount of $50,000 that his client posted shouldn't have been increased without a proper motion being filed with the court. "In this case there was nothing before the court asking for any motion, anything to that extent the judge just sua sponte reviewed those conditions. Why bother having a magistrate's then? Why bother sending these cases to a magistrate's if any judge can change those conditions at any time?" he challenged.

Cunliffe argued that the government failed to show that his client posed any danger to the community to justify an increase in the bail amount. Cunliffe said, "(Judge Vern Perez) abused his discretion…by not going through anything and the transcripts are replete with well I'm going to stick with this because the government says he might be a danger. He'd been out for a week and there were no violations whatsoever. There was no indication that he'd done anything wrong."

Magistrate Judge Alberto Tolentino originally set Song's bail at $50,000, but when the indictment was handed down by the grand jury, the Attorney General's Office sought an arrest warrant from Superior Court Judge Anita Sukola, with bail at $250,000, which was later affirmed by Judge Perez.

Associate Justice Robert Torres expressed concerns that the AG's Office sought an arrest warrant without notifying Song's defense team.

Jonathan Quan said, "Upon receipt of an indictment handed down a true bill, the court shall issue a summons or upon application by the prosecution, if we show a valid reason for the issuance of an arrest warrant that we may issue a warrant?"

Torres stated, "What was the valid reason in this case for the issuance of a warrant as opposed to the issuance of a summons?" with Quan replying, "The valid reason you're honor was the severity of the charges increased from aggravated assault second degree off a magistrate's complaint and a declaration which is a 2nd degree felony and bumped up to criminal homicide, manslaughter."

Quan contends the prosecution didn't have to file a motion to impose additional charges or in this case, increasing the bail amount, saying that power rested with Judge Perez to modify the initial conditions that were set. "So in reference to the magistrate judge's decision referencing conditions that can be reviewed at anytime," he noted. Quan adde, "As I said Your Honor, there was no order or judgment provided by the defendant on this appeal that's why this court is going on this issue and we would request at this point that this is not ripe and it should be dismissed at this time."

Justices have taken the matter under advisement and are under an expedited schedule to get a decision out as song has asserted his right to a speedy trial and is scheduled to go to trial in less than a month.

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