Language barrier in federal drug case tolls speedy trial clock

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(PNC photo)

A Mexican national dubbed “kingpin” in a drug-smuggling scheme spanning four years will have to wait a bit longer before trial or a deal is struck.

This is the second time Francisco Arias’ case has gone before the District Court of Guam. Arias successfully appealed the conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine conviction and a new trial was ordered.

Arias and his attorney Anthony Perez appeared before District Court Magistrate Judge Michael Bordallo on Tuesday telling the court that there is a language barrier issue, specifically with the previous Mexican/English translator and the accuracy of the translations provided.

The translations involve 600 pages of text messages.

The dilemma presented is twofold as US Attorney Laura Sombataro indicated that they do not know who provided the translation but are checking with the Las Vegas DEA office based on information from the US Postal Inspector.

It was also reported that the DEA agents originally assigned to the case have all left Guam.

Translator services are also needed to review a proposed plea agreement as well as in preparation for trial.

With this in mind, the court found that the ends of justice outweigh the right for a speedy trial, tolling the clock for two weeks so that the language issues can be sorted out.

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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.