by Nick Delgado
Guam - Superior Court Judge Anita Sukola denied three police officers' requests to be released from jail in regards to the Blue House Lounge brothel case. Police Officers Mario Laxamana, David Q. Manila and Anthony Quenga sat at the defendants table again this morning in hopes that Judge Sukola would grant their bail modification request.
The officers have spent the last week behind bars following an indictment that accuses them of aiding and abetting prostitution at the Upper Tumon club between 2006 and 2008. The government opposed release, saying the 16 victims in the case are still in fear of intimidation and retaliation.
Judge Sukola stated, "The people's case contends that the defendants in this case used their positions as Guam Police officers to intimidate and threaten the victims ensuring their compliance with co-defendant [Song Ja] Cha and their own demands."
The defense contends that none of the veteran officers are a flight risk and will appear at all future court hearings. Additionally, they argue the charges should be thrown out because they contend the Attorney General's Office took too long to bring the charges against their clients and failed to ensure their appearance before a judge within 48 hours of their arrest.
The government opposes the dismissal arguing they tried to bring the officers before a magistrate court but were unable to get a transport for them.
Officer Manila is being held behind bars on $250,000 and faces additional charges of 1st degree criminal sexual conduct. He admitted in federal court to paying for a drink and then having sex with a worker in a VIP room. Manila's attorney, William Pole, said his client has no means to come up with the quarter-million-dollar bail. "Defendant Manila is accused of raping two of the victims at Blue House, forced prostitution, kidnapping and felonious restraint was all accomplished through the defendants threats," said the judge.
Her Honor said she weighed the defendants' arguments with what the law requires in ensuring defendants will appear for hearings and that their release will not endanger the safety of others. "The court finds enough information at this time to deny defendant Manila's bail modification. The court is extremely concerned given the nature of the offenses, the allegations therein and the testimony of Officer [Tracey] Volta relative to the safety of the victims," she said.
Testimony was provided earlier this week that indicated that the victims, nine of whom still reside on Guam, are living in fear of intimidation and retaliation. Judge Sukola said, "The court is extremely concerned with the safety of the community is here at risk - and more specifically, the alleged victims in this case. And for these reasons the court is denying these requests."
The ruling applied to co-defendants Quenga and Laxamana as well. The judge said the defense could file additional motions for release should they be able to show the court that their clients' release will not impact the safety of the victims. Sukola added that the set bail amounts were the "least onerous".
Blue House owner Cha meanwhile is scheduled to answer to the criminal charges handed down in the superseding indictment next Monday. The court has been unable to secure a Korean interpreter for her arraignment. The officers are also scheduled to return at that time when the court will hear the defense motions to dismiss.
Late this afternoon, Laxamana posted the $100,000 cash bail and was placed on house arrest and must be in the presence of a third-party custodian. He was given a number of release conditions that include having no contact with the victims.