Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hawaii Post: Anthony Quenga of Guam Police Department

Anthony Quenga
Former police officer Anthony Quenga wipes tears from his eyes after listening to testimony from his sister during his sentencing hearing in court on April 18. Superior Court of Guam Judge Anita Sukola handed down a sentence of 30 years to Quenga in the Blue House brothel case.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Paul Suba's Blue House probe still a mystery

Weeks after the Guam Blog filed a request with police for information about an internal investigation regarding the Blue House case, the department has yet to respond to the request. The request concerns an investigation called for by former Police Chief Paul Suba regarding alleged inappropriate police involvement in a Tamuning brothel. The investigation was ordered by Paul Suba in 2008, according to Guam Blog files, and was "in response to information received about Blue House victims/witnesses who alleged a Mario, Tony and another officer frequented the Blue House." But the result of Suba's investigation, which could shed light on whether the department knew of any officer's involvement in the brothel, remains a mystery. A series of reports by the Guam Blog last year prompted the government to launch a special investigation into Blue House, resulting in the indictment of three police officers. During the course of that special investigation, the fact that Suba had ordered a similar investigation years earlier was made public. But it still is unclear if Suba's investigation ever was completed or what it found. If the police department investigated the allegations against officers internally in 2008, the agency was required by local law to release a report on the findings on the department website. There are no findings on the website for that investigation. On April 25, the Pacific Daily News filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the department, asking for documents related to Suba's call for an investigation. The request asked for all documents related to the investigation, including the original complaint and testimonies as well as any conclusions made and what action, if any, was taken against anybody found to have been involved with the brothel. But two weeks after Chief Fred Bordallo acknowledged his receipt of the request, the newspaper hasn't received a response approving or denying it. Under Guam's Sunshine Law, government agencies are required to release public documents within four working days of the request. In some circumstances, though, that time limit can be extended up to 10 days, including weekends and holidays. As of yesterday, however, the PDN hadn't received a request to extend the time limit. Suba's request for an internal investigation wasn't acknowledged publicly until last November, when Bordallo released a preliminary disposition, noting Suba's prior order for an investigation. The Blue House lounge was a brothel that operated in Tamuning between 2004 and 2008. The brothel lured women from the Federated States of Micronesia with the promise of high-paying waitress jobs, After they arrived, however, brothel owner Song Ja Cha would confiscate their passports and force them into prostitution, according to the federal court case against her. She was found guilty of sex trafficking in federal court and sentenced to life in prison. She faces similar charges in local court, but has appealed to the island's Supreme Court, arguing she cannot be tried twice for the same crime. Two officers arrested in the Blue House case, Anthony Quenga and David Manila, are facing trial with Cha on prostitution and criminal sexual conduct charges. Officer Mario Laxamana entered a plea agreement earlier this year with prosecutors. He agreed to plead guilty to felonious restraint in exchange for his testimony at trial.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Brothel owner asked to testify against police

Nine women were forced into prostitution at the Blue House lounge
Government prosecutors have tried to get the Blue House brothel owner to cooperate with an ongoing investigation into police officers, but the convicted sex trafficker turned the deal down.

Because Song Ja Cha declined to assist investigators, the brothel owner is headed toward a second trial later this year. Also, the Office of the Attorney General is now prosecuting three police officer suspects without the help of Cha -- a potentially valuable witness.

Last September, prosecutors discussed two separate plea deals with Cha's attorneys, according to letters from the AG's office, which were reviewed by the Pacific Daily News.

The letters were sent months before any police officers were indicted in the case. Three officers -- David Manila, Mario Laxmana and Anthony Quenga -- were indicted in November.

The first letter offered Cha a plea to felonious restraint, with a sentencing range of zero to three years. Soon after, the AG's office sent another letter, stating that attorneys would discuss another offer with a one-year concurrent sentence.

Both of these sentences are shorter than the amount of time Cha has spent in jail while awaiting trial, so either deal would have made her local case disappear with no additional prison time.
Both offers required Cha to cooperate with government investigators, said defense attorney F. Randall Cunliffe.

Cha, 71, is already serving life in prison after being convicted in federal court, but the brothel owner has never admitted to any wrongdoing. Cha insisted she was innocent through her trial and sentencing, and she is also appealing her conviction to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
However, Cha also is charged with a long list of crimes in local court, where she is facing a second trial in the next few months.

The local trial also includes the police officer suspects -- Officers David Manila, Mario Laxamana and Anthony Quenga. These officers were never charged in federal court despite the fact that federal prosecutors were aware of the allegations against the officers.

In local court, all three officers have been charged with multiple counts of kidnapping, felonious restraint and prostitution crimes, and Quenga and Manila have been accused of rape.
If Cha had agreed to cooperate with investigators, it is very possible she would have information to provide against all three officers.

In an affidavit from January 2008 -- shortly after police raided the brothel -- Cha alleged that Laxamana was a customer at the Blue House lounge.

"Officer Laxamana had made acquaintance with one of my employees named Saknin Weria, aka, Jackie," Cha wrote in the affidavit. Weria worked as a supervisor at Blue House. She has signed a plea deal agreeing to testify in the upcoming trial.

Laxmana was present on the night police raided the Blue House, according to federal court documents. In her affidavit, Cha said Officer Laxamana followed her and made sarcastic remarks during the raid.
"He kept making sarcastic remarks about the incident and the whereabouts of a police officer, named Tony Quenga, who he believed was my good friend. Officer Laxamana said to me, 'Where is your friend Tony? Why is he not here to help you?'"

Finally, in a prior trial, Manila has testified that he knew Cha, who was friends with his ex-wife.

AG's office: No offer

Despite the September letters from prosecutors -- both of which discuss potential plea deals with Cha -- the AG's office has said it hasn't made any offers to Cha.

AG's spokeswoman Carlina Charfauros said Thursday that her office hasn't offered any plea deals to the Blue House owner.

The Blue House lounge was a Tamuning brothel that masqueraded as a karaoke bar from 2004 to 2008. The three officers were indicted after a series of Guam Blog stories prompted the police department to reopen the Blue House investigation. Blue House victims levied allegations against police officers in 2008, but no officers were arrested for more than four years.

Several motions to dismiss are pending in the case. A hearing is set for Jan. 14 to determine when oral arguments will be held.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Attorney: Other officers not investigated

Guam Police Department officers, seated in orange from left, Mario Laxamana, David Manila and Anthony Quenga stare at former brothel owner, Song Ja Cha, left, prior to the court proceeding in connection with the Blue House case at the Superior Court of Guam during the Blue House trial last month.

Confidential documents in the Blue House case have revealed that more police officers allegedly had sex at the Tamuning brothel, according to defense motions filed in the Superior Court of Guam.
Somewhere within more than 1,000 pages of discovery documents are allegations that at least three more officers are connected to Blue House, and that another eight officers committed "misconduct or criminal activity," wrote defense attorney William Pole.

Pole represents Officer David Manila, a suspect in the Blue House case, and his newest motions seek to get his client out of jail and dismiss the case for "prosecutorial vindictiveness."
Pole argues that prosecutors have received allegations against many police officers in the Blue House case, but have chosen to prosecute only a few.

"The most troubling evidence against the government is that there are other officers accused of misconduct by the same alleged victims that have accused Officer Manila," Pole states in one of his motions. "There is no evidence that these officers have been charged or interviewed. ... The government has provided, in its own discovery, a list of officers who are accused of having sexual relations, taking favors or otherwise cannot account for why they spent time at Blue House."
Although the defense motions are part of the public court record, the discovery documents that they reference are confidential. Discovery documents are potential evidence that is only available to attorneys in the case. None of the officers who face allegations in the discovery documents have been identified in any public document.

During an interview with the Guam Blog yesterday, Pole said he didn't intend to endorse any of the allegations in the discovery documents. The goal of his motion was to show that prosecutors haven't treated all accused officers the same, he said.

"If I were to accuse 10 people, and I now charge three people, then I would need to explain why I didn't go and investigate the other seven," Pole said.

The Office of the Attorney General hasn't responded to either of Pole's motions. AG spokeswoman Carlina Charfauros declined to comment on the motions, saying that prosecutors plan to allow their response documents to "speak for themselves."

Manila is one of three police officers indicted in the Blue House case in late November.
The other two are Mario Laxamana and Anthony Quenga, and all three officers are accused of assisting the Blue House brothel, which was open from 2004 to 2008. Quenga and Manila also were charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct, which can carry a life sentence.
Manila previously admitted to at least some involvement with the brothel.

In 2011, during a federal trial of brothel owner Song Ja Cha, Manila admitted in federal court that he once had sex with a Blue House employee after paying for a ladies drink. The officer also testified that he once "advised" an employee that she couldn't leave the lounge until she had paid off her debts to Cha.

During that same trial, Freda Eseun, a supervisor at Blue House, testified that officers named "Mario" and "Tony" frequented the brothel. Regardless, no police officers were fired, arrested or prosecuted for ties to the Blue House after the federal trial.

The three officers who currently face charges were arrested after a series of articles by the Guam Blog, which prompted the Guam Police Department to reopen the case.
In his motion to dismiss, attorney Pole argues that the prosecutors buckled to political pressure and public outcry. If the government had a legitimate reason to prosecute Manila, it should have happened years ago, Pole argued in the motion.

"The government must give an explanation on why it took so long to charge defendant Manila. The Office of the Attorney General knew about the federal investigation, the government knew about any alleged allegations against David Manila in 2008 and the government chose to file only after a media storm erupted," Pole wrote.

The motion to dismiss for prosecutorial vindictiveness isn't the only motion that seeks to end the Blue House case before trial.

Several other motions are pending before Judge Sukola, and the judge yesterday denied two other dismissal motions, which argued statute of limitations and failure to appear before a judge within 48 hours.

The Blue House case is set for jury selection on Jan. 2.  Follow the stories on Guam Blog.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Judge denies officers’ bail change request in Blue House case

Judge Anita Sukola has denied bail modification requests for all officers accused of crimes connected to the Blue House brothel.

Citing a concern for the safety of the communities and alleged victims of the brothel, Sukola denied requests that the officers be released on a personal bond or recognizance.
Bail amounts for Officers David Manila, Mario Laxamana and Anthony Quenga are $250,000, $100,000 and $250,000, respectively.

Attorney Peter Perez, who represents Mario Laxamana, noted in court that his client intends to post bail. It is uncertain if the other officers plan to do the same.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why Guam shouldn't celebrate Fourth of July

The July 4th celebrations at beach parties, picnics, fireworks and the waving of American flags on this land of islanders who have been denied the basic human right of self-determination and decolonization remind us about the deep disparities between the principles and the practices of American democracy in the Chamorro archipelago of the Mariana Islands.

For Guam, much of this is in fact caused by U.S. military presence and strategies of the 21st century.
In 1776, the unanimous declaration of the 13 United States of America severely criticized the King of Gr. Britain for having:

"Kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

"He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

"He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

"For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us."

It was clear that the signers of the Declaration of Independence were in fact, decidedly anti-military in their castigation of America's then-ruler.

Today, however, the United States' spread of over 900 military bases outside of the continental U.S. exists separate from civilian life, with its own set of laws and technology that abridge basic human rights and civil liberties in colonial territories and distant countries.

The United States' own foundational document, with its anti-colonial and anti-military values, deserves an honest review in our classrooms and should be at the forefront of our thoughts today and every day until the day we are allowed to exercise our basic human rights in our own land.

Hope A. Cristobal is a former senator and resident of Tamuning.