Former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos pleaded innocent to racketeering charges today, but a federal judge refused to let her return to Hawaii until government and defense lawyers iron out details of her $5-million bail.
Imelda Marcos brushed away a tear as U.S. District Judge John F. Keenan said, “I’m not going to let the lady go back to the Hawaiian Islands until I’m certain the bail is set.” He set another hearing for Thursday.
She and her entourage arrived Sunday by borrowed luxury jet from Hawaii, where she and ousted Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos have lived in exile since fleeing their homeland in February, 1986. They are accused of embezzling $100 million from the Philippines.
Defense lawyers had convinced Keenan that the 71-year-old Marcos was too frail to make the trip to New York City for a court appearance. His arraignment was postponed, at least until a government physician examines him.
The judge, however, ordered Imelda Marcos, 59, to appear on the charges that she and her husband used the country’s money to buy property including four New York buildings and artwork.
As a small group of demonstrators chanted anti-Marcos slogans, she strode into court dressed in black high-heeled pumps and an aqua-blue, off-the-shoulder full-length gown with puffy sleeves.
Included in the crowd was a woman dressed as a vampire with two large fangs and carrying a sign saying: “Imelda, Bloodsucker of the Filipino People.”
One American woman stood on the steps of the courthouse with a sign ridiculing Ferdinand Marcos’ illness. The sign said: “Too Sick to Plead in New York but Fit to Fly to Manila Anytime.”
The sign was a reference to Marcos’ often-stated desire to return to the Philippines.
Imelda Marcos spoke only twice during the 45-minute hearing, once to waive a reading of the indictment, and once to answer “Not guilty.”
After the innocent plea was entered, the judge set bail to be secured by real estate, cash and personal possessions “amounting to a reasonable market value of $5 million.”
The judge at first said he would not detain her, but a hitch developed when prosecutors and defense lawyers could not agree on what property and cash would be used to secure the bail.
Jewelry an Issue
Defense lawyers, who originally wanted her released without any bail, had agreed to a bail package in which the Marcoses would put up $1.2 million in Philippine pesos along with jewelry the couple brought to the United States when they fled their homeland.
“I don’t see how that can possibly be used as bail,” said Assistant U.S. Atty. Charles LaBella, noting that the jewelry is subject to subpoena in an ongoing grand jury investigation and that the Philippine currency is subject to a claim by the Aquino government.
The judge ordered the parties to return to court Thursday with details on bail. Imelda Marcos was then sent to be fingerprinted.
A Marcos associate in Honolulu said Imelda Marcos, who is staying at the Waldorf Towers at a cost of $1,800 a night, hopes to shop and entertain old friends while in New York.
“Her real concern is that she also hasn’t left her husband’s side for three years, and she’s very concerned about his health,” John Bartko, a Marcos attorney, said in Honolulu.
She arrived Sunday in a private Boeing 737 loaned by American Tobacco Co. heiress Doris Duke. The plane, outfitted to carry just 19, brought her entourage, which included an attorney, a nurse, secretary and several friends.