Judge to issue decision on Mark Torre Jr.'s request to lift house arrest

COURT HEARING: Attorney Jay Arriola Jr. escorts his client Mark Torre Jr. and Torre's wife out of Superior Court Judge Michael Bordallo's courtroom at the Guam Judicial Center on Tuesday morning. Nick Delgado/The Guam Daily Post 

Former Guam police officer Mark Torre Jr. will find out in the next 30 days if he will be released from house arrest and will be allowed to get a job and attend doctor’s appointments for his infant child and his pregnant wife.

Torre Jr. faces a second trial in the Superior Court of Guam in connection to the 2015 shooting death of fellow officer Sgt. Elbert Piolo. He’s been held under house arrest at his Yigo home since the start of the case four years ago.

Torre appeared before Judge Michael Bordallo on Tuesday.

The Piolo family also attended the hearing.

Motions under advisement

Bordallo during the hearing decided to take the government’s motion to amend the indictment against Torre and the defense's motion to modify his release conditions under advisement, which means he will consider the matters.

Defense attorney Jay Arriola argued Torre has had no violations, and he urged the court to lift Torre’s house arrest.

“He’s not been charged yet with the new offenses, because we have to decide on the motion to amend, and whether or not it's going to go back to grand jury. But, technically, as it stands now, the convictions were vacated. Although he remains under the court’s jurisdiction, our position is that the bail conditions should be modified,” Arriola said. “We request $5,000 personal recognizance, understanding conditions, perhaps curfew, if the court is concerned with his release. We ask that he be allowed to work if he is able to obtain employment, that he be allowed to attend medical appointments to care for his infant and soon-to-be newborn, and that all of the standard conditions apply.”

Assistant Attorney General Charles Kinnunen had no response to the defense’s motion in court.

Torre also asked he be cleared of a prior bail amount. In 2015, he posted $165,000 using property to satisfy bail. Torre requests the title to the property be returned.

The government’s motion to change the charges in the indictment was also discussed. It requests to replace the murder and manslaughter charges in the July 2015 indictment with a charge of negligent homicide.

Defense asked the court to deny the government’s request, claiming a violation of Torre’s rights.

“Torre was only indicted in the initial indictment for aggravated murder and manslaughter. There was no indictment charge issued by the grand jury at the time for negligent homicide,” Arriola said. “It is not appropriate to include an additional offense in this indictment by amending it.”

Charges pending

In July, the high court vacated the conviction and ruled that the Superior Court had erred when it denied the defense motion to suppress body-camera footage, which showed police interrogating Torre before he was read his Miranda rights.

“We are back to square one, your honor,” said Arriola.

Judge Bordallo begged to clarify.

“You seem to be implying that we are back to square one where there is no charges pending … as opposed to being back to square one where there are charges pending,” Bordallo said. "Anything from the beginning of trial on is vacated, but we are in pretrial. Are we not in the pretrial conference stage of the initial charges with aggravated murder and all those charges pending?”

“Those charges, your honor, he was acquitted,” Arriola said. “Double jeopardy prevents those charges from being even brought up in the second round of the case. Our position is we need a whole new indictment and the government must present the case again to a grand jury, including evidence that was not suppressed” Arriola said.

“It sounds like the defense position is that there is nothing pending,” Bordallo said.

“No, your honor. The only charge pending before him is the third-degree aggravated assault that was charged in the indictment together with the special allegation,” Arriola said.

Judge Bordallo said he would issue a decision on both motions in the next 30 days.

Torre is scheduled to appear back in court on Oct. 24 to find out when the case will go to trial.