Video shows government witness saying prosecutors pressured him to lie by threatening him with jail time
Attorney David Lujan, regarded by many as Guam’s most respected criminal attorney, called a federal prosecutor a liar, said she is a “dirty prosecutor,” and has moved to have her and her entire team removed from the biggest criminal trial of the decade in Guam federal court. The prosecutor – Marie Miller from the U.S. Department of Transportation – is accused of:
- Jury tampering
- Witness tampering
- Withholding evidence in a criminal trial
- Conspiring in an attempt to entrap Mr. Lujan and have him removed as defense counsel for Kenneth Rufus Crowe on the eve of his trial.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is withholding comment on the matter until the trial ends.
Mr. Crowe is one of several defendants in what has come to be known as the Hansen Helicopters Case. It is, by far, the largest criminal trial before the U.S. District Court of Guam in years, with 1,376 filings to date on its docket, which began with an indictment in 2018. It is anticipated the jury, the selection of which is nearly complete, will be presented with hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence, and more than 40 witnesses from the prosecution alone.
Mr. Crowe, along with his co-defendant colleagues from the now-defunct Hansen Helicopters Guam operation, are accused of a slew of federal criminal charges. The United States Attorney — through Ms. Miller — is prosecuting the defendants for allegedly engaging in a conspiracy laced with fraud and wire fraud in the operation of aircraft throughout Micronesia.
Years of preparation and delay in the case culminated with the commencement of jury selection in February. On February 15, 2022, a juror, who is employed at Talofofo Elementary School, told Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood under questioning that she did not believe she could be impartial in the case. She said that because she knows of Mr. Lujan, she would be biased toward the defendants.
“His brother is a close friend of my sister in law,” the prospective juror, who eventually was excused from jury service, told the judge that day. “And, you know, I just found out recently that he also donates to our school and I just thought that was pretty cool.”
It was that statement from the potential juror, coupled with what Mr. Lujan calls a personal animus against him, that caused Ms. Miller to summon the powers of the federal government against him. The following day, two FBI agents approached the potential juror’s co-worker, according to an affidavit filed in federal court. The co-worker corroborated the potential juror’s testimony before the court, and also told federal investigators that the donation of school supplies was made from surplus from a building Mr. Lujan owned and was about to demolish, and that Mr. Lujan wasn’t even aware of the donation.
“I made it very clear that Attorney Lujan has no idea about the supplies brought from the Corn Building before demolition and used at the school for the children,” the co-worker said in her affidavit. “The Corn Building belonged to Attorney David Lujan and I labeled it as a donation by him to give him credit although he was not aware. I told the female FBI Agent that Attorney Lujan had no idea that I said the supplies to be discarded was donated by him.”
“The government appears to be involving itself extrajudicially in the jury selection process,” Mr. Lujan told the court during arguments Sunday and prior to his motion to have Ms. Miller and her prosecution team dismissed from the case. Ms. Miller said the reason the USAO made the decision to investigate the juror and the school stemmed from a 2019 accusation by then-assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Black that defense attorneys in the Martinez-Moser federal trial may have been aware of John “Boom” Mantanona’s tampering of the jury for which he later was indicted.
“I was accused, but guess what?” Mr. Lujan argued in court, “The government took it back.” Indeed, Mr. Black exonerated the defense attorneys in the case, telling the court weeks after making the accusation that there was no reason to believe any of the attorneys were aware of Mantanona’s crimes. Ms. Miller, who is representing the USAO, and is assisted by assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Leon Guerrero, should have known these facts, Mr. Lujan said.
“And so I resent Ms. Miller … coming here and making such an accusation without checking at least with Mr. Black,” Mr. Lujan said. “The government has shown — it’s a dirty prosecutor — who goes, sends out people to investigate, you know, jurors, or people who have been brought in for jury selection. All they’re trying to do is intimidate people … and scare people from sitting here, so that they can select people that they want.”
In a hearing in the judge’s chambers following the FBI interview at the Talofofo school, Ms. Miller told the court that the federal government discovered from an interview with the school principal that Mr. Lujan made no such donation to the school. She referred to the principal as the person whose husband worked for Mr. Lujan.
There are several problems with that assertion, the first being that the principal of Talofofo Elementary School is a man, Erwin Manibusan, who does not have a husband who ever worked for Mr. Lujan. The school did have a principal, whose husband once worked for Mr. Lujan. Her name is Evelyn Mantanona, wife of Boom Mantanona; and she has not been school principal since 2013.
Mr. Lujan then challenged Ms. Miller’s testimony before the judge, accusing the prosecutor of lying to the court, knowing that Mantanona is a cooperating agent for the government, whose case remains under seal while he is cooperating (breaking news for another story) against yet-to-be-named targets of the federal government.
“The government’s conduct has reached yet another level of outrageousness,” Mr. Lujan wrote in his motion seeking, among other things, an evidentiary hearing to get to determine the misconduct on the part of the prosecution’s team of lawyers, including Ms. Miller.
“The government did not inform the Court that their source was married to a cooperating witness,” Mr. Lujan’s motion states. “The result of the government’s conduct is that Crowe is getting squeezed in the middle. The issues the government has injected into these proceedings must be fully resolved before trial. If the government is dirty – and Lujan has presented not a small amount of evidence which strongly suggests it is – the prosecution team must go. Even though Lujan has been able to bring forward evidence favorable to his position, there are many issues which remain outstanding and are not fully resolved.”
Among Mr. Lujan’s weekend filings was a video played in open court that Mr. Lujan alleges was an attempt and conspiracy led by Ms. Miller to entrap Lujan. The video was sent to Lujan’s client, Mr. Crowe, on February 19, by one of the prosecution’s witnesses, Jose Eduardo Marinho Gonsalves (“Mr. Marinho”) on Spain. Mr. Marinho was a Hansen Pilot. His deposition was taken in 2020 and was supposed to suffice as his testimony in the case.
The February 19 video from Marinho to Crowe is about three minutes long, and shows Mr. Marinho saying he lied about the defendants because the government threatened him, and that he said whatever he believed the government wanted him to say in order to avoid going to jail. He also said he wanted to come to Guam to tell the truth in open court, and to tell the judge and the jury exactly what the government did. He provided his phone number in the video and said for Crowe’s attorney – Mr. Lujan – to call Marinho to arrange for the testimony.
On February 25, Mr. Marinho emailed Ms. Miller. Among his statements, he said, “Marie Miller, please don’t tell them I’m going with you and let them think I’m with them and I’ll get yoiu more proof.”
Mr. Lujan alleges this is proof Marinho and Miller conspired to entrap Lujan into calling Marinho at his behest, and thereby establishing a charge from Miller that Lujan was witness tampering or trying to intimidate a government witness.
“The government’s misconduct clearly demonstrates a degree of personal animus against defense counsel that directly contradicts a prosecutor’s ethical obligation to seek justice,” the motion to disqualify the prosecutors states. “Here, the prosecutors have manifested an unabated personal interest in impugning the integrity of Crowe’s counsel, David Lujan. Particularly disturbing is the fact that government counsel, and particularly FAA counsel Marie Miller, has consistently engaged in character assassination against Lujan that has injected the poison of government vindictiveness into the government’s entire handling of this case. As such, the prosecutors have a conflict for which, at this stage in the litigation, mandates the remedy of disqualification.”
Judge Tydingco-Gatewood hinted she will be ruling in the government’s favor, but has taken the matter under advisement. In the meantime, and admonishing both sides of the courtroom to work together on customary matters, like the sharing of information, she ordered the prosecution to provide certain evidence to defendants by 4 p.m. Tuesday.