COVID-19 at DOC becomes a common defense in court

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The Department of Corrections (DOC) confirms an additional 62 positive cases of COVID-19 among its prisoner population. (PNC file photo)

The Department of Corrections COVID-19 positivity rates popped up repeatedly in federal court during hearings held on Thursday.

A number of the 12 cases heard shared a common argument proffered by defense attorneys — confining their clients to the Hagatna Detention Facility increases their chances of exposure to the coronavirus.

Federal Public Defender Brianna Kottke asserted there are 2 confirmed cases of detainees and 2 DOC staff testing positive for COVID-19 at the Hagatna Detention Facility where federal inmates and detainees are held.

In the case of Kottke’s client, Bruce Carey Wood, a convicted sex offender facing revocation of his release, she says his pre-existing health conditions put him at high risk for dire consequences should he become exposed and infected while detained.

Kottke raised the same argument for another client, Jesse Castro Babauta, who is also facing revocation for violating the terms of his release. She requested for time served, arguing that detaining her client for an additional 10 days would increase his risk of exposure. A risk, she says, that is not worth taking.

Chief Judge Francie Tydingco-Gatewood, in response to Babauta’s case, said that as she understands, it was relative only towards the local detainees and there have been no male federal detainees who have tested positive.

Kottke rebutted that although she is not aware if the detainees were local or federal, the two DOC staff that tested positive at the facility utilized a communal control phone which is a reason why detainees were not able to receive counseling calls. Kottke added that “regardless if it is on one side of the fence in the local side or on the side where the feds are held, which is actually where the quarantine area is too, there are shared staff members that are going in and out of both of those facilities.”

In such cases where COVID concerns were raised, the court took the matters under advisement.

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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.

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