Updated: Dec 22, 2021
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Federal Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood on Tuesday rejected a former mayor’s plea for a sentence reduction, saying the “egregious” nature of his crime and his lack of remorse outweighed his excuse for liberty.
Jesse Mendiola Blas, the ousted mayor of Yona who facilitated drug trafficking while holding office, has petitioned the court for compassionate release, citing health reasons and possible risk of exposure to Covid-19.
“As a perpetrator who used his connections to the institutions of Guam to enable his criminal conduct, the court declines to profer to defendant indulgence from yet another of this island’s institutions,” reads the decision issued by the chief federal judge of the District Court of Guam.
Blas, who received a three-year prison term, is currently incarcerated at FCI La Tuna in Anthony, Texas. He has served two-thirds of his sentence and is set to be released in May 2022.
While acknowledging that Covid-19 may present an “extraordinary and compelling” reason to grant a prisoner’s plea for a sentence reduction, Tydingco-Gatewood was not convinced that Blas deserved such a relief.
The judge noted that although the Texas facility has eight Covid positive cases among its staff, none of its inmates is infected.
“The court also takes judicial notice of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ plan in place to mitigate the risks of Covid-19 infection and outbreak in its prison system,” the judge said. “Accordingly, the court does not find that an extraordinary and compelling reason exists in this case.”
According to court documents, Blas is overweight and suffers from coronary artery disease, old myocardial infarction, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and major depressive disorder. He also suffers from gastro-esophageal reflux, lower back pain, gout and sleep apnea.
While recognizing the inadequate medical care he gets for his heart conditions, the court noted that Blas is fully vaccinated, "which reduces his high risk of a severe illness in the event he becomes infected with Covid-19."
Besides the lack of “extraordinary and compelling reasons” to shorten Blas’s prison term, the court said the former mayor’s “conduct” weighed against his favor.
Blas was indicted on six counts of extortion and seven counts of bribery. He pled guilty to one count of extortion.
“(Blas) abused his position of trust as an elected public official,” the court said.
As the mayor of Yona, Blas had control over the use of keys to the cluster mailboxes, which drug traffickers used to receive packages containing methamphetamine.
According to court documents, federal law enforcement had commissioned an informant who posed as a drug trafficker and bribed the then-mayor with cash in exchange for a cluster box.
“When the informant stopped paying bribes, the then-mayor started threatening the informant to the point that the informant had to be relocated for her own safety,” court records said.
In her decision, Tydingco-Gatewood noted that Blas’ crime “was so particularly egregious it warranted three separate offense level increases at sentencing.”
In response to the court’s order following his conviction, Blas wrote a letter to the people of Guam, apologizing for his “betrayal of the public trust.”
“Notably, the letter fails to say why public corruption and/or drug trafficking are harmful to Guam, indicating that the defendant either lacks remorse or does not comprehend the harmful effects of his actions,” the court said.