by Nick Delgado
Guam - Just a day before she was supposed to go to trial on local criminal charges that were handed down four years ago, Blue House owner Song Ja Cha appeared in court today with one of her former workers and three police officers who allegedly participated in and promoted prostitution at the Upper Tumon establishment.
Usually seen in blue uniforms, Police Officers Anthony Quenga, David Q. Manila and Mario Laxamana walked into Superior Court Judge Anita Sukola's courtroom this morning donning orange Department of Corrections shirts. The three, along with Cha, who is appealing her life sentence for a related federal conviction and Freda Eseun, were all scheduled to answer to the criminal charges handed down in last Friday's superseding indictment.
One by one, the officers with their attorneys entered their pleas, all 'not guilty'.
Officers Quenga and Manila asserted their right to a speedy trial. Both are being held behind bars on $250,000 cash bail. Assistant Attorney General Nelson Werner defended the amount of the bail, saying, "Justification is he has been accused of a very violent crime; there are people and victims in the community and we have concerns about their safety."
Quenga's attorney, however, asked that his client be released on a personal recognizance bond. Tom Fisher said, "The government is asking for a quarter-million dollars bail on offenses that occurred more than four years ago if there were any concern about safety of the community or a flight risk they would have brought this up in 2008, they did not they slept on this case probably because there is no basis for it."
Quenga faces additional counts of attempted criminal sexual conduct for allegedly ordering a female worker to perform sexual acts under the threat of being arrested for not complying. Manila also faces two counts of 1st degree criminal sexual conduct for allegedly sexually assaulting two female workers.
Laxamana meanwhile waived his right to a speedy trial and is being held on $100,00 cash bail.
The defense has already filed motions to dismiss as well as bail motions to get their clients out of jail but the AG's Office asked for more time. Judge Sukola however stressed the need for the matters to be resolved immediately. "Mr. Werner, you do represent the people of Guam - you brought this superseding in indictment, this case has been around since 2008, we were ready to go for jury selection and trial tomorrow then the government comes in with a superseding indictment nearly three years after the fact and asking this court to slow its wheels down we cannot we will have that hearing," she said.
Cha and Eseun meanwhile need interpreters in order to be arraigned on the new charges. Their arraignments are set for Wednesday at 9am. The judge denied Cha's motion to dismiss the prior charges alleging double jeopardy.
Meanwhile, Judge Sukola will hear Officer Laxamana's bail motion at nine o'clock tomorrow as well. Quenga's and Manila's bail motions as well as the defense's motions to dismiss the indictment are scheduled to be heard next week Monday.
The officers meanwhile, who remain behind bars, have been placed on administrative leave with pay for 20 days.
The superseding indictment lists 19 different criminal charges ranging from conspiracy to compel prostitution, conspiracy to commit felonious restraint, solicitation to promote prostitution and kidnapping to charges of first and second degree criminal sexual conduct, criminal intimidation, and official misconduct. The officers' alleged criminal activity occurred between January 2006 and January 13, 2008 when the brothel was uncovered.
A federal review of the officers' actions is also underway.