By Johnnie Rosario
(Tumon, Guam) Federal prosecutor Laura Sambataro is fighting against the release of Yona Mayor Jesse Blas, telling the federal court that Mr. Blas is so connected to organized crime that the government had to relocate its star witness off island for fear of her life.
Mr. Blas is facing 13 counts of felonies surrounding his alleged involvement with a major drug trafficking organization. His case follows that of John "Boom" Mantanona, who also is facing conspiracy charges in federal court relating to major drug trafficking. Their indictments stem from a massive federal investigation into police and public corruption. Among Mr. Blas's charges are the use of his position and ties to law enforcement to help a woman named in court documents only as "Brenda" to smuggle meth into Guam through a cluster of mail boxes Mr. Blas controlled as the mayor.
Brenda was the confidential source of information for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who facilitated the drug trafficking scheme that led to Mr. Blas's downfall. The FBI has her information and testimony, wiretaps, and video recordings and text messages provided by another confidential source as evidence against Mr. Blas and others under investigation.
This includes an unnamed Guam Police Officer, whom Mr. Blas is accused of sending to Brenda's home to threaten her life. Mr. Blas is accused of directly threatening Brenda himself, and of beating and kidnapping the other CI.
Brenda is the star witness in this case, and presumably in cases yet to be filed against others allegedly involved in this so-called major drug trafficking organization that used corrupt politicians and law enforcement to escape charges by local authorities.
Federal Judge Joaquin Manibusan, Jr., at Mr. Blas's detention hearing held at the same time as his arraignment, ordered the detention of Mr. Blas based on "clear and convincing evidence" that Mr. Blas presents a danger to the lives of the witnesses, including Brenda, and to the community.
Defense attorney Joe Razzano on October 6 filed a motion to free Mr. Blas, stating that the allegation that Mr. Blas is a danger to Brenda and the rest of Guam is not enough to keep Mr. Blas detained until his trial, which is scheduled to begin December 2 with jury selection.
Prior to this motion, Mr. Blas, through Mr. Razzano, attempted to have FBI Special Agent Rafael Fernandez disclose Brenda's location in open court. Ms. Sambataro immediately objected, telling the Court that Brenda's life is in danger by Mr. Blas and his associates in the major drug trafficking organization; and that federal authorities had to relocate Brenda off island because of this danger.
Ms. Sambataro fired back a response to Mr. Razzano's October 6 motion on the same day, telling the Court that Mr. Razzano is ignoring the plain meaning of the law. She cites the federal Bail Reform Act of 1984.
Ms. Sambataro argues,
In support of his motion, Defendant argues that “danger to the community” is not a proper reason to detain an individual prior to trial. However, the Defendant’s argument flies in the face of the plain language of the statute, the intent of Congress, and settled precedent from the Supreme Court upholding the provision of the Bail Reform Act of 1984 that allows courts to detain defendants pending trial on the basis of their danger to the community. It was entirely proper for the Court to detain the Defendant once a finding was made by clear and convincing evidence that the Defendant was a danger to the community. Therefore, the Defendant’s Motion to Revoke should be denied.
Some of the most damning statements entered on the record during the detention hearing can be found in the images of the hearing transcripts below: