by Nick Delgado
Guam - Three members of the police force appeared in court today asking that they be released from jail as their defense attorneys maintained their clients' innocence in the blue house brothel. Officers David Q. Manila, Anthony Quenga and Mario Laxamana appeared in court today asking once again to be released from jail.
The officers have been behind bars since they were picked up by Superior Court Marshals last Friday night following a superseding indictment that accuses them of conspiring, promoting and furthering prostitution at the former Blue House Lounge. Manila also two counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct for allegedly sexually assaulting two workers at the bar. Attorney William Pole represents Manila and argued that his client should be released on his own recognizance or alternatively be placed on house arrest to a third-party custodian.
He said, "He is a veteran officer, he has a house on Guam, he has a pregnant girlfriend who is due to give birth in a month and children from his first marriage is here and on all of those reasons he is not a flight risk. He has always been open and honest with the government as well as with the prosecution so again the argument that he is now (guilty) after four years of open cooperation with the federal government has not been shown."
He added his client was a key witness in the federal case against club owner Song Ja Cha in which he admitted to paying for a drink and then having sex with a worker at the Blue House in a VIP room.
Prosecutor Nelson Werner painted a different picture, saying the victims, nine of whom are still on Guam, are still living in fear. "We have women who are intimidated and forced into prostitution and as I pointed out in my brief that intimidation went on yesterday in this court room by defendant Quenga, and we have real concerns that if these gentlemen are released and can go out on their own recognizance and further the intimidation that started a number of years ago, it will jeopardize the government's case," he said.
GPD officer and FBI task force member Tracey Volta was called to the stand to testify about the interviews that were conducted with 16 victims in the case, one by one naming them.
Volta said they said, "that they were afraid of the police and still concerned," adding that the nature of their concern was, "retaliation by the police department against them."
Attorney Leevin Camacho who represents Officer Quenga questioned Volta about whether there was any evidence that his client contacted any of the victims. Officer Volta replied "not to my knowledge." Volta said the investigation began in October of this year when the police department was ordered by the governor to further look into allegations of police involvement in the prostitution that occurred at the blue house.
The hearing grew emotional for Officer Laxamana, who was seen wiping tears from his eyes in the courtroom as his attorney, Peter Perez, detailed why his client was not a flight risk. Perez also said the likelihood of conviction is very minimal. "The point is they are asking for an excessive bail, they are grandstanding, the matter in which they are handling Mr. Laxamana's case is not fair," he stated, adding, "The court is not going to be bothered by this rush to judgment in the public and this political posturing by almost every branch of government except the Judicial Branch regarding this case, but thankfully we are in a dispassionate forum of restraint."
The prosecution says the bail amount is a result of the multiple conspiracy charges. Werner also told the court discovery will be handed over to the defense by Friday and only then, he says will they know the strength of their case.
Both Laxamana and Quenga have approved third party custodians in the event Judge Anita Sukola grants their bail motions. The motions were taken under advisement with Sukola expected to render her decision by Friday morning.
During the federal trial, several of the workers testified that police officers frequented the establishment and were "friends" of the owner.
It's alleged that the officers were used to prevent the girls from leaving the establishment and to make threats to force them to perform sexual acts for officers and customers who paid for it.
Meantime, Freda Eseun pleaded not guilty and is on pre-trial release. Cha's arraignment, however, was continued until Friday when the court is expected to get a Korean interpreter.