Yona Mayor Jesse M. Blas remains behind bars after a District Court hearing on Friday.
"To ensure fairness to the defendant and the government, this court will hold a new detention hearing," District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood stated. Though she revoked a magistrate judge's Sept. 24 order to detain Blas, he will remain behind bars for now as he awaits the detention hearing that Tydingco-Gatewood scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 29.
Magistrate Judge Joaquin Manibusan Jr. denied Blas' request last month to be released.
However, Tydingco-Gatewood said Manibusan "failed to consider whether there was 'no condition or combination of conditions (that) will reasonably assure . . . the safety of any other person and the community ... prior to imposing pretrial detention."
Tydingco-Gatewood said in court that the U.S. Probation Office recommended Blas be released from custody.
Blas allegedly allowed the use of mailboxes his office has control over for alleged drug deals. He pleaded not guilty to federal charges of extortion and bribery in connection with alleged drug activity in his village.
Defense: Government source is a liar
Blas appeared in the District Court of Guam on Friday morning while his attorney argued to get him freed from jail.
Joseph Razzano argued that Manibusan was wrong to keep Blas in jail based on the sole argument that he is a danger to the community.
It was said in court that Manibusan considered the FBI testimony last month that detailed Blas as an alleged danger to the women who spoke to investigators that ultimately resulted in his detention.
Razzano said he received evidence that the government's confidential source, who was identified in court as Brenda, is a known liar.
"You have to release Mr. Blas because he is being detained in violation," said Razzano, as he said the magistrate judge should have released Blas with conditions. He also said Brenda no longer lives on Guam.
He argued the other woman the government spoke to in the investigation, who was identified in court as Blas' girlfriend, Vickilyn Teregeyo, has nothing to do with the case and currently lives in Saipan.
"So there is no danger to anybody," he said.
Razzano also questioned the FBI testimony that a Guam police officer threatened Brenda at her residence, as authorities have yet to identify the police officer being implicated.
"I don't think it ever happened," he said. "Obviously, (Brenda) is not in any danger, she was never harmed ... she's in danger from the gang of criminals she committed other crimes with. Not Mayor Blas."
The defense also contends Manibusan never issued a written order to detain Blas, saying in court that the government just made "all these wild allegations" to keep him in custody.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Sambataro argued the court can detain someone based on being a danger to the community.
She claims Brenda was threatened by Blas and a GPD police officer, as she referred to the FBI testimony in the transcripts taken from Blas' arraignment hearing last month.
"The government put out evidence of very specific harms," said Sambataro.
She said Manibusan made it clear that there are no conditions that the court could impose to alleviate concerns that he is a danger.
"He seems safe there," said Razzano when the court asked how he was doing in prison. "He hasn't used his tentacles in the law enforcement community to harm anyone, as the government alleged."
The defense had recommended the mayor be released on home detention, but the prosecution opposed that request.
"Home detention would not be appropriate," Samabatao said. "Just because of his blatant disregard for his office and his engaging in criminal activity."
Still a mayor
More than a dozen of the mayor's family and supporters attended the hearing.
Following the arguments in court, Angel Sablan, Mayors' Council of Guam executive director, said he was confident that Blas would be released.
"He's still the mayor of Yona and nothing in the hearing changed that. The only thing we are concerned about is his ability to function as a mayor," said Sablan. "We asked the opinion of the attorney general as to how to proceed and they weren't definite. They did not know because the statute is silent."
Blas' administrative leave with pay expired on Oct. 23. He is now using his annual leave, Sablan said.
The concern over the lack of a municipal planning council in Yona remains an issue. The mayor never appointed council members for his village.
Guam Election Commission Executive Director Maria Pangelinan said on Friday that without a vacancy in the Yona mayoral seat, there is no action for the GEC to take.
The trial for Blas has been scheduled for Dec. 2.
Law enforcement implicated
During Blas’ arraignment hearing in September, FBI agent Rafael Fernandez testified that investigators learned of the alleged acts involving the mayor from a cooperating defendant who had been in a romantic relationship with Blas.
The woman, who was identified in court as Teregeyo, alleged the mayor assaulted her and on one occasion punched her hard in the face, dragged her into a residence and held her hostage for at least three days.
She now lives in Saipan, but has a pending drug case in the Superior Court of Guam.
The FBI agent also mentioned drug convict Lovelia Mendoza, who was sentenced to eight years in prison after she pleaded guilty in federal court to possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine.
The mayor is accused of entering into an agreement with an informant, identified as Brenda, who posed as a drug dealer. Blas allegedly agreed to receive about $15,000 in bribes in exchange for allowing some of the village's postal cluster mailboxes to be used in drug trafficking, court documents state.
Fernandez said the mayor threatened to close Brenda’s mailbox if she didn’t pay him upward of $15,000. He also testified Brenda was confronted at her home by a Guam police officer who told her she would be in trouble if she lied to the mayor.
He said there were several groups involved in alleged dealings with the mayor to include certain unnamed marshals at the Judiciary of Guam and Department of Corrections Deputy Director Joey Terlaje. Terlaje has since resigned from DOC but has not been charged.
Abuses of power
Since the case surfaced, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero asked the attorney general of Guam to exercise his existing authority to receive confidential public complaints, to independently investigate and prosecute abuses of power.
Multiple local senators voiced corruption concerns.
Public safety oversight chairperson Sen. Jose "Pedo" Terlaje temporarily gave Vice Speaker Telena Nelson control of his committee to hold oversight hearings after the FBI implicated his son, Joey Terlaje, in the mayor's alleged dealings. He said he and his family are tending to personal matters.
The legislative oversight chair of the justice committee, Sen. Therese Terlaje, has pushed for answers from the Judiciary of Guam. Chief Justice Katherine Maraman confirmed with the senator that there have been efforts by the Judiciary to contact witnesses who may be able to shed further light on allegations the FBI made during Blas' arraignment hearing.
Guam Police Department Chief Stephen Ignacio said he spoke to the FBI about the allegations involving one of his own, but was not given enough details to launch an investigation.