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12 23Fri04252014

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AGO updates procedures on crime victims advocacy

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AMID accusations that government prosecutors renege on their responsibility to communicate with crime victims, the Attorney General's Office has revised its standard operating procedure for crime victims advocacy.

The new SOP provides improved general guidelines for victim advocates in protecting the rights of crime victims by contacting them as required by the law.

Copies of the new SOP will be distributed to victim advocates once approved by the Legislature.

According to Carlina Charfauros, AGO spokesperson, the revised SOP is a two-pronged model – one for the plea bargain agreement and another for case dismissal.

Under the Crime Victims Right Act of 2004, victims and/or surviving immediate family members have the right to be immediately informed by the AGO of the final disposition of the criminal case against their perpetrators.

Additionally, the victim or the surviving immediate family member shall also be consulted and advised about plea bargaining.

Charfauros said the updated SOP is now in the final process and will be submitted soon to members of the 32nd Guam Legislature.

Committed

Although the AGO has an existing procedure for contacting the crime victims, the prosecutors’ office committed to submit a renewed and updated SOP in reaching out to crime victims during a roundtable discussion with lawmakers last March.

The roundtable discussion was called after the mother of a victim of a near-death brutal beating in March 2012 aired her concerns about the AGO prosecutors’ failure to inform her of changes to plea agreements for her son’s assailants.

Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz said the AGO failed Cameron Masnayon and his family because they were not informed by the AGO that a lesser plea was offered to one of the defendants and was accepted by the court.

The public’s attention was drawn to the AGO once again when another crime victim, Monique Baza, complained that she was not informed about the dismissal of the kidnapping and robbery charges against her suspected attackers.

Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas later met with Baza and assured her that the most culpable suspect in fact has not been released. “And we will not agree to any release.”

“We also had a good, long, wide-ranging discussion not only about her case, but about improving the current system,” Rapadas said. “We discussed current legislation and working with the Legislature on passing mandatory minimum sentencing on certain classes of crimes.”

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