Guam Judicial System Focus Of Joint Oversight Hearing

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Hearing to follow public outrage at suspected kidnapper’s release

By Gina Tabonares-Reilly

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, May 1, 2013) – Indignation and doubts over the Guam judicial system’s ability to uphold justice and protect crime victims have prompted lawmakers to call an oversight hearing to shed light on the community’s questions about the apparent mishandling of some criminal cases.

The joint oversight hearing, called by Sen. Ben Pangelinan and Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, is scheduled for May 7.

Questions about the legal system were raised as Guam celebrates Law Week.

Pangelinan said he called the oversight hearing "in light of information made public by more victims of crimes, most particularly two victims of crimes, most particularly two incidents of assault and robbery of two women in the last six months and the treatment these victims received from our law enforcement agencies."

The oversight chairman for the Committee on Legal Affairs requested representatives from the Attorney General’s Office and the Guam Police Department "to come to the oversight hearing to answer questions by this Legislature, as well as the community, as to the action(s) of their respective departments and to what extent changes will have to be made to ensure a sense of security that criminals will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and to keep them off our streets."

Pangelinan and Cruz recognized the need to give the community a sense of security and to ensure that criminals are prosecuted and sent behind bars.

The oversight hearing was called following public outrage over the release of a kidnapping suspect.

Case dismissed

Crime victim Monique Baza came out in the open to express her disappointment in the judicial system.

Baza, the victim of a kidnapping and robbery incident that happened in the parking lot of Crown Bakery in Mangilao on Oct. 15, was disappointed upon learning that the case against Raymond Torres Tedtaotao, one of the suspects, has been dismissed.

Tedtaotao, along with Corinna Lynn Blas, were charged with second-degree robbery for allegedly receiving Baza’s debit card from principal suspect Raymond C.T. Camacho. The two reportedly spent some $800 using Baza’s debit card.

Camacho is facing separate charges of kidnapping and sexual assault.

Plea agreement

Under the Crime Victims Rights Act of 2004, victims and their surviving immediate family members have the right to be notified of any potential plea agreement prior to a plea agreement being reached between the prosecutor and the defendant.

Baza said she received a call from the AGO informing her of a plea agreement, to which she objected. She added that she had no inclination that the case would be dismissed.

Tedtaotao was re-arrested after he and Anthony Mendiola with a male minor burglarized a home in Nimitz Hill two weeks ago.

Tedtaotao was identified as the one who assaulted the woman in the house. The victim had to undergo neurosurgery after sustaining severe injuries during the robbery and assault.

"Why do we allow them to go back in the street and victimize more people? The Judiciary failed me and the whole community. That poor lady from Yoña would have been spared and not suffering now if that defendant was not released from jail," Baza told the media.

‘In the interest of justice’

In an earlier press statement, the AGO said the motion to dismiss was filed by Assistant Attorney General Gerald Henderson. A copy of the motion dated Nov. 16, 2012 stated: "It is in the best interest of justice."

Judge Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson signed the dismissal order on Nov. 19.

The AGO will hold a media conference at 3 p.m. today to answer questions surrounding the dismissal of Tedtaotao’s case.

"The main purpose of this press conference is to familiarize the community about the criminal justice process and the role the [AGO] and prosecuting attorneys play in it," said Carlina Charfauros, AGO spokesperson.

Similar case

The upcoming oversight hearing is the second to be heard this year in relation to purported mishandlings of criminal cases.

Last month, Sen. Frank Aguon Jr. gathered representatives from the Judiciary, AGO and GPD in a roundtable discussion prompted by the complaint from the mother of Cameron Masnayon.

Masnayon was the victim of a brutal beating which nearly took his life on March 18, 2012.

It was Cruz who received the complaint from Masnayon’s family, citing injustice because they were not informed by the AGO that a lesser plea was offered to one of the defendants and was accepted by the court.

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