admin's picture

By Theresa Merto

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, July 21) - With a look of relief, former Governor Carl Gutierrez walked out of the Supreme Court of Guam courtroom yesterday embracing his wife and daughter just minutes after a jury acquitted him and two of his former Cabinet members of all criminal charges in the Urunao case.

After a controversial trial spanning four weeks, the 12-member jury, made up of seven women and five men, returned with not-guilty verdicts.

Gutierrez, his former chief of staff, Gil Shinohara, and former airport Executive Manager Gerald Yingling have been on trial since June 21.

Prosecutors alleged that government resources and personnel were used to build, maintain and upgrade Gutierrez’s Urunao ranch in Dededo. Tutujan Park, or Triangle Park, in Agana Heights was used as the "staging ground" for some of the items used at Gutierrez’s ranch, prosecution alleged.

Dozens of relatives and longtime Gutierrez supporters crowded the two-level Supreme Court of Guam courtroom yesterday and witnessed the 36 verdict forms being handed to the judge, then given to the court clerk, who read each charge.

Silence fell, as the three defendants were found not guilty on all charges. When the first "not-guilty" verdict was read aloud, Gutierrez rested his face on his folded hands.

Immediately after the verdicts were read and proceedings ended, the defendants shook their attorneys’ hands and Gutierrez turned to Shinohara, and they hugged in court. Family members seated behind the defendants in the courtroom broke into a celebratory round of applause.

Gutierrez was accompanied by his wife, Geri, and daughter Hannah after the reading of the verdicts. When Gutierrez was asked for a comment, he said, "Randy will comment for me," referring to one of his attorneys, Randall Cunliffe, who is also a Democratic senator.

"We are really happy about the verdict. We didn’t doubt it from the beginning," said Cunliffe, who walked out of the courtroom immediately after Gutierrez.

"Hopefully, in the future, before (the attorney general’s office) brings such prestigious people into court, they’ll look at their case and determine that they actually have something and they’re not just trying to get a headline."

Gutierrez’s other defense attorney, David Lujan -- who cross-examined the government’s witnesses and delivered a nearly eight-hour closing argument last week -- was not present in court yesterday.

Shinohara was the second defendant to leave the courtroom. He raised up his hand in front of media representatives and said, "No comment."

His attorney, Mark Williams, however, said that, "justice was served."

"The jury took their job very seriously and deliberated thoroughly despite all the pressures and publicity of this case," Williams said. "And so we’d like to thank them for doing their job."

Yingling, the final defendant to leave the courtroom walked past a handful of reporters with his attorney, Mitch Thompson, without commenting on the case.

In a written statement, Attorney General Douglas Moylan said his office is disappointed with the verdict.

"Our office fully believed in the validity of the charges," Moylan said.

According to Moylan’s written statement: "This case went before a grand jury which found sufficient evidence to return an indictment, and cleared numerous attempts to dismiss it before the case was submitted to the jury."

"The court believed there was sufficient evidence to submit this case to the jury," Moylan said.

"The burden on the government is very high. It took three days for the jury to come to its decision and we remain undaunted in prosecuting government corruption and all other crimes," the island’s first elected attorney general said.

Gutierrez and Yingling still face criminal charges in local court in separate cases. Shinohara is scheduled to go to trial in October in the federal court.

In the Urunao case, the first indictment was handed down months ago. However, several charges were dismissed because of a lack of evidence and, recently, Gutierrez was acquitted of a conspiracy charge.

The three defendants have maintained their innocence but chose not to take the stand in their highly publicized trial.

Just after 4:00 pm, Judge Katherine Maraman told attorneys she had received notice that the jurors had come to a unanimous decision regarding the case.

The jury deliberations took three days -- a sharp contrast to the jury selection and trial itself.

The jury selection process began on May 28 and, over a span of two weeks, more than 800 jurors were called in and questioned by the judge. The trial took more than three weeks and closing arguments alone took three days.

The trial also experienced its share of setbacks.

One male juror became ill during the first week of trial, while a female juror asked to be excused because she said sitting through the trial would cause her financial hardships.

The devastation of Tropical Storm Tingting, which struck the island June 27, shut the court for a day. And one defense witness -- Guam airport consultant Francisco Santos -- asserted his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, causing further delay in the trial.

Government of Guam employees from different agencies, including the Guam Police Department, Guam Waterworks Authority and airport agency, took the stand. Altogether, 21 government witnesses and four defense witnesses took the stand.

Special Assistant Attorney General Frederick Canavor, a Washington-state-based attorney hired by the attorney general to prosecute high-profile cases, and Deputy Attorney General Basil O’Mallan questioned employees on what roles they played in the construction and maintenance of Gutierrez’s ranch.

Lujan also questioned witnesses, leaving some government witnesses testifying that there was no evidence of any crime.

Witnesses talked about how they delivered construction materials including cement to Urunao, but did not know where the materials came from. They talked about dropping a government-owned mulching machine at Urunao, but placing it on a public easement and not on private property. One former Government House employee also testified that he did some construction work at the ranch, but did so only on weekends and holidays.

In the end, the testimony and evidence were not enough for the jury.

Maraman yesterday thanked the jurors for their service and said it would be their choice if they wanted to talk about the case and verdict.

"It was a long selection of a jury and a rather lengthy trial. You were very conscientious, both during the trial and during the deliberations," Maraman told the jurors.

"As we mentioned to you during jury selection, service on the jury is one of the most important parts of our citizenship and it is the backbone of the criminal justice system."

July 21, 2004

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment