Judge dismisses Terlaje case with prejudice

WITH PREJUDICE: Former Department of Corrections Deputy Director Joey Terlaje, left, is seen with his attorney, Joaquin "Jay" Arriola, Jr., in October in the Superior Court of Guam in Hagåtña. Terlaje's case involving allegations of felonious restraint and official misconduct has been dismissed with prejudice by Superior Court Judge Alberto Tolentino. Jonah Benavente/The Guam Daily Post 

Joey Terlaje's case related to the alleged detention of a woman for three days has been dismissed with prejudice in the Superior Court of Guam.

Terlaje, a former deputy director of the Department of Corrections, was first charged in December 2021 with felonious restraint as a third-degree felony and two counts of official misconduct as misdemeanors. The charges stem from allegations that Terlaje helped ex-Yona Mayor Jesse Blas hold Vickilyn Teregeyo against her will for three days at a barbecue in 2017.

Since first being charged, Terlaje has pleaded not guilty to two separate indictments and, as trial was set to begin in August, the Office of the Attorney General asked that it be continued to allow prosecutors more time to contact Teregeyo to see if she was willing to follow through with the case.

After that hearing in August, the case was dismissed and attorneys gave oral arguments on whether the case should be dismissed with or without prejudice, meaning whether Terlaje can be charged again in the future.

Bad faith

On Wednesday, Judge Alberto Tolentino issued his decision to dismiss Terlaje's case with prejudice because of bad faith shown by the prosecution, which not only included lack of preparation for trial in contacting Teregeyo, but also failing to follow court orders for pretrial deadlines.

"Throughout the duration of this case, the People were consistently unprepared - demonstrating a disregard for the Defendant's constitutional rights," Tolentino wrote, referring to the Office of the Attorney General not filing a witness list, not disclosing it will need more time to prepare for a trial at an earlier date and not making arrangements for Teregeyo to testify at trial.

In addition, Tolentino wrote prosecutors should be the ones deciding whether to pursue the case, not Teregeyo.

"The Court reminds the People that it is its office, not Victim, who decides whether to pursue a case and this case is the People of Guam's case, not the Victim's case," Tolentino wrote. "The Court is concerned that if it dismisses the case without prejudice, the People will again ask for a continuance or dismissal so it has more time to contact (the) Victim."

Terlaje also asserted his right to a speedy trial, which Tolentino said could continue to be violated if the case was dismissed without prejudice.

Innocence

After Terlaje's case was dismissed in August, Terlaje's attorney, Joaquin "Jay" Arriola Jr., said his client has been innocent since Day One.

Arriola echoed similar statements in a message to The Guam Daily Post after Tolentino issued his order.

"Joey Terlaje has always maintained his innocence against these baseless, politically motivated charges. He and his family are most thankful for this decision, which finally dismisses and expunges this case," Arriola said.

The Guam Daily Post reached out to the Attorney General's Office for a comment, however, spokesperson Carlina Charfauros said the office needed to review Tolentino's decision and order before doing so.

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