Two more lawyers withdraw from Blue House case - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Two more lawyers withdraw from Blue House case

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Tired of delays, Superior Court Judge Anita Sukola denied defense motions to dismiss in the Blue House Lounge case as two defense attorneys withdraw from their case and jury selection is scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

Former Blue House Lounge owner Song Ja Cha will be tried separately from her co-defendants, Police Officers David Q. Manila and Anthony Quenga. "This court finds severance is justified and is a relief justice requires so as not to prejudice at this time defendant Manila and Quenga," said Judge Sukola. Her decision came after several defense motions were heard this afternoon, including Cha's attorney, Leslie Travis', motion to withdraw as her defense counsel. Travis works for the Civille and Tang law firm, which represented Cha's late husband in the federal criminal case. Travis said, "To the extent that any exploration needs to be conducted regarding Mr. Cha's potential culpabilityand the extent to which that may diminish Mrs. Cha's culpability, we believe that our previous representation of Mr. Cha prevents us from doing that on behalf of Mrs. Cha."

Judge Sukola granted the withdrawal and attempted to appoint Cha her seventh defense attorney, but also stated, "The court appointed listing has been exhausted the court is to need further directive and instruction from the court administrator and legal counsel as to going out of the box to make another appointment for Ms. Cha."

Cha will have to appear back on Monday to determine who will represent her. Quenga's attorney, John Terlaje, who has been representing the police officer since January, also asked to withdraw from the case saying he has a conflict with individuals who may be called as rebuttal witnesses during the trial but the identities of those individuals was not revealed during the hearing.

Judge Sukola reluctantly allowed Terlaje to withdraw. Sylvia Stake was appointed as Quenga's new lawyer and the judge made it clear she won't have much time to prepare for the trial. "I want him (Quenga) to know that that lawyer is only going to have three to five days to prepare and that's his choice for making that assertion. I cannot stop him because he has a free will," her honor stated.

But attorneys for Manila and Quenga believe there shouldn't even be a trial as they assert their clients right to a speedy trial, which must be held within 45 days, has been tolled.  Manila legal counsel Terry Timblin says based on his calculations the speedy trial clock expired on May 20 when eliminating all the time for motions.  He argued the clock continued to run when appeals were filed with the Supreme Court. Timblin noted, "If these appeals stop the clock, then of course the speedy trial isn't run. If they don't stop the clock, it has; and I believe it has and therefore we move to dismiss."

The dismissal was denied as the court noted a much different calculation, finding that only 39 days have passed since the officers' assertion and there are actually six days to bring the two to trial. The court also denied Manila's third bail modification motion. Timblin said, "The new information is basically this case is so full of holes that there is a very substantial likelihood of acquittal."

Attorney Timblin argued that the 2008 investigation into the Blue House brothel made no mention of Manila and Quenga threatening or sexually assaulting any of the Chuukese workers. "Suddenly they're looking for evidence against these gentlemen and suddenly all this bad stuff comes out for the first time four years after the fact. I think that's very significant," Timblin suggested.

Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Quan opposed the release of Manila, saying the government believes there is a high probability of conviction in the case and there are eyewitnesses who will testify about manila making threats and some of the charges he face carry life sentences.

The pre-trial conference continues on Monday at 2 in the afternoon and jury selection will begin on Tuesday afternoon.

Attorney Timblin tells KUAM News he intends to file a writ of mandamus with the Guam Supreme Court on Monday regarding his client's speedy trial concerns as well as another appeal on the denial of the defense's third bail modification motion.

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