by Mindy Aguon
Guam - Less than a week before the Superior Court of Guam was slated to set the high-profile Blue House Lounge prostitution case for trial, a surprising twist today as one of the defendants charged in the case sought a last minute hearing to plead guilty. Police Officer Mario Laxamana appeared in court this morning with his defense attorney, Pete Perez, to change his plea.
"Mario Laxamana - as to one count of felonious restraint as a 3rd degree felony, a violation of 9GCA 22b and 4.60, how do you plead - guilty or not?," announced Judge Anita Sukola. "Guilty, your honor," he replied. "Are you pleading guilty because you are guilty?", she asked, to which he responded, "Yes, your honor." She then said, "You are guilty because between the period of January 1, 2006 and January 13, 2008, inclusive in Guam you, committed the offense of felonious restraint in that you were complicit in holding another, a victim, in condition of involuntary servitude. Is that correct?"
"Yes, your honor," Laxamana said again.
Laxamana and two other police officers, David Q. Manila and Anthony Quenga, and the lounge's owner, Song Ja Cha, are charged with numerous crimes to include conspiracy to commit kidnapping, compelling, promoting and abetting prostitution, criminal intimidation and criminal facilitation. This morning Laxamana pleaded guilty to felonious restraint as a 3rd degree felony and official misconduct as a misdemeanor.
"For official misconduct as a misdemeanor, how do you plead? Guilty or not?" he was asked, responding, "Guilty your honor." The judge again inquired, "Are you pleading guilty sir, because you are guilty?" the officer said again, "Yes, your honor."
In exchange for his full cooperation, which includes testifying against his co-defendants and divulging any information about the matter to local and federal authorities, the Attorney General's Office has agreed to recommend that he receive a suspended jail sentence. According to the plea agreement, for fully cooperating Laxamana will receive three years' imprisonment for the felonious restraint charge - but that would be suspended with credit for time served. He would also receive one year behind bars for the official misconduct charge, which would also be suspended.
Laxamana indicated he intends to relocate to the U.S. mainland once he has complied with all of the conditions of the deal.
As a result of today's plea, Laxamana was released from the $100,000 bail and third-party custodian conditions. His sentence will be deferred until after the other related matters are closed.
The court meanwhile is scheduled to set the matter for trial during a hearing next week on the 18th. The trial however could be delayed as cha has filed an appeal of the judge's denial of her motion to dismiss based on double-jeopardy.
The Guam Police Department meanwhile has not indicated what action, if any, will be taken on Laxamana and whether he will return to the force.