WORKER TESTIFIES AGAINST FORMER GUAM GOVERNOR

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By Theresa Merto

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 22) - A Guam Department of Public Works employee yesterday testified that he delivered construction material, including more than 10 cement bags and bundles of wires, to former Governor Carl Gutierrez’s Urunao Ranch.

John Peredo, however, said on the stand during cross-examination that he did not know where the items came from and did not know who paid for them.

This was part of the testimony delivered yesterday on the first day of the government corruption trial against Gutierrez, his former chief of staff, Gil Shinohara, and former airport Executive Manager Gerald Yingling. The trial is scheduled to continue today.

The defendants are accused of conspiring to use government personnel and resources meant for Tutujan Park, also called Triangle Park, in Agana Heights at Gutierre’s Ranch in Dededo. The park originally was slated to cost about US$50,000 but that number rose to US$500,000, prosecutors said.

More than 20 people filled court benches and chairs on two levels in the Supreme Court of Guam courtroom, as the trial commenced before Superior Court Judge Katherine Maraman. The defendants, dressed in suits and ties, appeared relaxed at the court hearing and chatted with family members and supporters during breaks.

The trial started 45 minutes late yesterday as attorneys met in the judge’s chambers to discuss new motions, including a motion for discovery. A hearing will be held on the motions Thursday.

Several charges against the defendants were dismissed before the start of trial. Still, they face a slew of felony and misdemeanor charges ranging from theft of property to conspiracy. The defendants have pleaded innocent.

Before the trial began, Maraman read the indictment and charges to the jury, which consists of seven women and five men, and gave them preliminary instructions regarding the case. She told the jurors not to discuss the case with anyone and not to read or listen to any media reports.

Maraman said that although the defendants are being tried together, the jury must give separate consideration for each defendant.

Special Assistant Attorney General Frederick Canavor, a Washington-based attorney, delivered the opening arguments for the government yesterday. Canavor said the defendants showed a "blatant display of power and corruption" and that the Triangle Park was the "staging ground" for diverting construction materials to Gutierrez’s Urunao ranch.

Canavor told the jurors they would hear testimony on how the park was originally expected to cost $50,000, but that it eventually cost $500,000.

He said they would hear testimony on how bid laws were violated and that the construction company -- CP Construction -- was hired to do work at the Triangle Park but also did work at Urunao.

He said Yingling got the money for the project and Shinohara moved the goods and material to Urunao. In the end, Gutierrez was the "beneficiary of this scheme," Canavor said.

Canavor said the government expects to call only 20 witnesses to the stand.

"It is the nature of the testimony, not the quantity, which is important in this case," Canavor said.

The witnesses will establish that the construction of Triangle Park and Urunao was part of a "criminal enterprise," Canavor said.

Using poster board, defense attorney Randall Cunliffe listed the charges against the defendants. He told jurors "no monetary funds" went to Urunao and emphasized that they take a close look at the evidence.

Cunliffe, who is also a Democratic senator, said the jurors won’t hear any viable evidence that "anyone took anything" to Urunao. As to the conspiracy charges, Cunliffe said, "We believe that the evidence will establish that there are no conspiracies."

After Typhoon Chata’an struck in July 2002, Cunliffe said the government had to spend extra money to get the Triangle Park to where it once was.

"Initially when the project began, materials were being stored at the park and were walking off at night," Cunliffe said. So the materials were placed into a container across the government house in Agana Heights under "lock and key," he said.

Cunliffe said after super typhoon Pongsona hit the island in December 2002, the container was taken to the Agana Heights mayor’s office and the contents used within the village. He also said the Department of Public Works had estimated the park to cost between US$250,000 and US$500,000.

Cunliffe told the jurors that after the testimony is over, they would find the defendants did nothing illegal.

The first prosecution witness called to the stand was the Department of Parks and Recreation's parks administrator, Peter Villagomez. Villagomez said he has worked at the department since 1988 and his job was to keep track of park areas and improvements.

He said on the stand that one day a few years ago, he noticed there was some construction going on at the site where the Triangle Park now sits.

"I wasn't aware of the construction at all," Villagomez said. He said Parks and Rec normally reviews all plans for parks but that in this case, they had not.

During cross-examination, however, Villagomez said a memorandum of understanding, dated Dec. 31, 2002, between Parks and Rec and the Agana Heights mayor's office was made. The memo was signed by the Agana Heights Mayor Paul McDonald, then-acting attorney general Charles Troutman, Gutierrez and then-DPW Director Dominic Muna.

"So all the right people ... signed this agreement?" Gutierrez's other attorney, David Lujan, asked Villagomez.

Villagomez replied, "Yes, sir."

The second government witness called to the stand yesterday was Department of Public Works labor employee John Peredo, who was assigned to the government house in the mid-'90s for about three years.

While at Government House, he also operated heavy equipment at the Triangle Park when it was being constructed. There, he reported to Rodrigo "Rudy" Ocampo, a former DPW employee who is facing criminal charges in a separate case.

Peredo said during this time, he was directed to help another man with making deliveries to Urunao. He said he was picked up by this man at government house and together, they went to Urunao to drop off cement bags, blocks and wires. He said he did not know it was the former governor's ranch until later.

"I thought we were going to bring it to Triangle Park," Peredo said, adding he did this during work hours while under the DPW payroll. He also saw some of the Triangle Park workers at Urunao during workdays.

Peredo said he delivered coral to the Urunao area -- not the governor's property -- several times. Peredo also was told to cover holes in Urunao that were dug up by Guam Telephone Authority and Guam Waterworks Authority crews who were installing utilities.

"My job was just to assist and that was it," Peredo said.

When Lujan cross-examined Peredo, the witness said he did not know where the materials he brought to Urunao came from.

"It could have come from me," Lujan said in court.

Peredo said he could not say if the defendants had anything to do with the deliveries to Urunao. He also did not know if the government employees he saw working at Urunao were there while off work.

The trial day ended yesterday with brief testimony from Guam Police Department Officer Kenneth Balajadia, who drove Gutierrez several times. His testimony lasted less than five minutes before the judge adjourned for the day. He is expected to continue testifying this morning.

June 22, 2004

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

 

 

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