Yingling files ethics complaint against judge
by Mindy Aguon
Guam - After being accused of wrongdoing, being convicted by a jury of his peers, and having the conviction reversed years later by the Guam Supreme Court, former Guam International Airport Authority Executive Manager Jerry Yingling has filed an ethics complaint against the Superior Court judge that presided over his case. Yingling was convicted in March 2005 of unauthorized use of a government credit card and official misconduct, but Guam's appellate court found there was no evidence to prove that the former government official did anything unrelated to his official business.
Now Yingling has asked Ethics Prosecutor Bruce Bradley to review judicial misconduct and ethics complaints against Superior Court Judge Steven Unpingco.
"In my opinion Judge Steven S. Unpingco should not be sitting on the bench at all. I don't think he's competent and I don't think he has the judicial temperament to judge others. I don't want any other Americans such as myself to experience what I did," Yingling said. "There's nothing more horrible than to be falsely accused and falsely convicted and I lay that blame squarely on the judge."
Yingling maintains the judge abused his authority when he failed to properly voir dire, or question potential jurors for the case that Unpingco determined was not high profile.
The former government official has also requested that the ethics prosecutor investigate one incident where he alleges the judge "misled" his defense counsel during a conference in chambers. Yingling explained, "He told the prosecution that they hadn't really proven their case and he may need to dismiss then he asked my attorneys were we going to rebut and then before my attorneys could respond he said, 'well there's nothing to rebut' and he said put your arguments together and we'll argue them on Monday."
Instead of the defense arguing the motion, Yingling says they returned to court where the judge read a prepared statement from the bench denying the motion in front of the courtroom which he says included some of the judge's university students who had been invited to attend the hearing by Unpingco himself. "I have to ask myself, maybe this wasn't intentional. If it wasn't intentional then it's totally incompetent…Where do I go to get my reputation back? Where do I go to get all of the money that I spent and was taken away from me? Where do I get the time?" Yingling asked.
"My complaint against Steven Unpingco is not about anger. It's not about revenge. It's not about some kind of retribution on him. It's to protect other people. Seriously any attorney or defendant who goes before him needs to be very, very careful," he explained.
The trial resumed and jurors returned a guilty verdict leading to Yingling's sentencing and an eventual appeal of his conviction. But the former government official's concerns with the judge were raised even in 2005 after his conviction as Yingling filed a motion to have Judge Unpingco removed from the case.
According to news files, Yingling's defense attorneys, Mitch Thompson and David Lujan, at that time raised serious concerns about possible judicial misconduct. Attorney Lujan had represented the judge's wife in a civil suit and the defense argued that Guam law requires the judge to disclose any and all facts which disqualify him from acting in a court proceeding. In a 15 page decision the judge expressed disgust saying the defense's motion to recuse him was not even worth the paper on which it was written.
Unpingco said he had no knowledge of his wife's legal dispute when she was represented by Attorney David Lujan and maintained that he had given both parties in Yingling's case a fair trial and he would not disqualify himself. "It's as if for some reason he has a personal or racial bias against me and my attorneys. It was just the most bizarre thing I've ever seen in my life and certainly something that does not belong in the American or Guamanian judicial system," he said.
Because of his legal battles and his experience with the judicial system, Yingling says his view of justice has changed completely. He believes the court system tries to do whatever it can "in back rooms without airing any dirty laundry". For now he hopes the ethics prosecutor will look into his entire complaint and hopes he'll finally get a fair shake.
"I would like to see the judge removed or resign or retire. I've had my rights abused and ignored and trampled upon," Yingling said.
Judge Unpingco meanwhile, is reserving comment as he hasn't received an official complaint yet. If at such time he determines a complaint was filed, the judge says he will examine the rules and determine if it is appropriate to comment.