Motion Made To Dismiss Guam Blue House Case

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Judge to decide if federal case trumps local charges

By Geraldine Castillo

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, Nov. 9, 2012) – Jury selection and trial on Guam are still ahead in the Blue House Lounge case in local court, but in the meantime, a motion to dismiss the case has been taken under advisement by the assigned judge.

Blue House Lounge owner Song Ja Cha still faces charges in Superior Court despite being sentenced to life in federal court for conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, sex trafficking and foreign transportation for prostitution.

Cha recruited young, impoverished women from Chuuk then forced them into prostitution at her establishment.

Judge Anita Sukola has taken a motion to dismiss the case under advisement. Cha’s defense attorney, F. Randall Cunliffe, argues that the charges brought in federal court "were based upon the same conduct" and that the offense for which Cha has been convicted of "is not a substantially less serious harm or evil than the offenses brought in the Superior Court."

As such, Cunliffe said the mandates of law prohibit the local court from going forward with all of the charges.

The prosecution, meanwhile, has clarified the charges being brought against Cha, which is two counts of aggravated assault, seven counts of felonious restraint, and one count of misdemeanor assault. Prosecutors previously dismissed charges of compelling prostitution and promoting prostitution.

Double jeopardy

Although Cunliffe is making a "double jeopardy" argument in his motion to dismiss, the prosecution cites the "dual sovereign doctrine" which provides that the Double Jeopardy Clause does not bar multiple punishment for the same act where it constitutes two separate offenses – one against a law of the United States and the other against the law of a state, Assistant Attorney General Lea Kear explained in a response to the motion to dismiss.

"Therefore, for double jeopardy purposes, the issue is whether defendant’s conduct constitutes separate offenses," the response stated.

AAG Kear also points out that elements of the federal and local charges are different. Prosecution also disagreed with Cunliffe’s argument that the charges Cha faced in federal court was not a less serious harm that the charges brought in local court.

"There can be no doubt that moving people across borders for the purposes of sex creates a serious risk of harm," wrote AAG Kear. "However, characterizing those charges as more serious than maintaining a brothel in our community belittles the importance of public safety on Guam."

She concluded, "For those reasons, the harm sought to be prevented by Guam’s statute is substantially more serious than the harm sought to be prevented by federal law."

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