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Drug case suspects threatening witnesses

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - They're supposed to be locked up awaiting trial, but it was revealed in federal court today that a pair of detainees accused in one of Guam's largest drug-trafficking cases allegedly had the access and means to intimidate potential witnesses. Mateo Sardoma Jr., Rudy Sablan and Maria Edrosa walked into Magistrate Judge Joaquin Manibusan's courtroom in handcuffs this morning for a status hearing to find out if their case is still set to go to trial.  

The three are among a group of people accused in a major drug trafficking ring. 

In court today, defense attorneys optioned to have the January 7 trial date pushed back to March, because they need more time to review 7,000 pages of discovery and over 30 hours of audio recordings of witness testimonies. Defense Attorney Curtis Van De Veld said, "So it's a very burdensome and time intensive activity and so we've asked the court to continue the trial to ask for time to prepare."

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Black argued the continued delays would only allow Sardoma and Sablan to further threaten and intimidate witnesses and requested the trial proceed in January.

Attorneys Van De Veld and Louis Yanza told the court both their clients are on 23-hour lockdown and do not have any phone privileges. Black countered that a mobile phone was found in Sardoma's bunk earlier this year and threats were made that a witness was "on his list and better shut the (expletive) up." Van De Veld says he was aware of an incident back in July when it was alleged his client sent a threatening letter to a witness.

He said, "There are some allegations that at some point in time previously there were some threats made by my client and Mr. Sablan, which we disagree with and we will just have to deal with that when the time arises, but there has been no recent allegation relative to any threats made by Mr. Sardoma."

Black alleged there was actually a threat made by Sablan a couple weeks ago. Sablan is currently housed in DOC's Maximum Security Unit. The assistant U.S. attorney told the court it's not to the advantage of both parties if threats are possible. Meantime, both parties anticipate trial to take 4-6 weeks, as there are over 55 witnesses set to testify.  

Van De Veld continues to stress his client's innocence, saying, "It's unique in that this case is going to have a considerable amount of witnesses testify about my client, and Mr. Sablan and Ms. Edrosa to tie them into drugs because there have been a number of searches inside my client's homes, his vehicles, and never uncovered any drugs."

Judge Manibusan vacated the January 7 trial date and will confer with the chief judge to determine if there is an available date for sometime between April 15-May 30.

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