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By Theresa Merto

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, April 29) - For the third time in the past four months, former Gov. Carl Gutierrez appeared in Superior Court of Guam yesterday and pleaded innocent to charges that he authorized the use of government funds to pay for private streetlights.

Former Department of Administration Director Clifford Guzman and former Guam Power Authority board Chairman Joseph L. Cruz also entered their innocent pleas before Judge Richard Benson. Attorney Peter Perez entered an innocent plea on behalf of his client, former GPA General Manager Thelma Ann Perez, who currently resides and works in Nevada.

The former governor, who was accompanied to court by his wife, Geri Gutierrez, appeared tired and occasionally rested his chin on the palm of his hands as he listened to proceedings he has gone through a handful of times.

When asked how he pleaded, Carl Gutierrez's attorney, Sen. Randall Cunliffe, D-Tamuning, said "completely, absolutely not guilty."

A Superior Court grand jury handed down a superseding indictment Friday against the former officials on charges they illegally authorized the use of government funds for private streetlights. The four face a range of charges, including conspiracy to tamper with public records, illegal expenditures and conspiracy for misapplication of entrusted funds, the indictment states.

Prosecutor Lewis Littlepage said he has filed paperwork to dismiss the previous indictment and asked that the court proceed with the latest indictment. Littlepage said in court that prosecutors are ready to take the case to trial on May 10.

But trial will not proceed on that date because the recent superseding indictment set back the pretrial clock.

Benson set the next hearing date for Tuesday, when motions in the case will be addressed. The judge also is expected to set a jury selection and trial date.

The defendants had previously been indicted on the same charges, but on April 20, Benson dismissed a majority of the charges because they were insufficient, court documents state. Benson dismissed six charges against Carl Gutierrez and Cruz, and three charges against Perez and Guzman. The judge also reduced one third-degree felony charge to a misdemeanor, files state.

Several days later, however, the attorney general's office quickly brought the case before a grand jury and a superseding indictment was handed down.

April 29, 2004

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