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Status of Yap-FSM Supreme Court cases for the murder of Rachelle Bergeron-Hammerling

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COLONIA (Yap State Government) — Over the last few months, questions have been received from the media about the status of the court cases for the two defendants in the murder of former Acting Attorney General Rachelle Bergeron-Hammerling in Yap.

This communication is being sent on behalf of Constantine Yowbalaw, director of the Yap State Department of Youth & Civic Affairs, to provide information as we now know it.

The hearings for the Yap State and FSM National court cases for the murder of Rachelle Bergeron-Hammerling in October 2019, were postponed when FSM announced a travel ban on January 31, 2020 due to the pandemic. The travel ban was then extended until September 30, 2020 through the country's National Emergency Declaration. As a result, the defense and prosecuting attorneys and judge, who are based in Pohnpei and Chuuk, have been unable to travel to Yap since all United Airline flights were halted between Guam and Yap, the only route between Yap and the other three FSM states, at the end of March,

Hearings for pre-trial motions for the firearms and ammunition charges that reside with the FSM National Supreme Court were held in December 2019 and more were scheduled for February, but the latter were cancelled since evidential reports had not yet arrived from the United States. Status conferences between the judge and attorneys were then scheduled for late July but the travel ban was still in effect.

A Zoom conference call was finally held between the judge and attorneys on September 3, 2020 to discuss how to proceed in light of the travel ban. It was agreed that future hearings would be held via Zoom with the defendants sitting in the FSM Supreme Court courtroom in Yap. Those hearings are open to the public.

No further dates have been set as of this writing for the FSM Supreme Court hearings on the national weapons and ammunition charges, but you may check the court calendar at https://www.fsmsupremecourt.org for the dates when they are posted. (It is advisable to check the calendar the day prior to, and morning of, the hearings since there may be last-minute changes.) However, once the pleas are entered, if they are "not guilty," a bench trial will follow immediately. (FSM does not have jury trials.) If the plea is "guilty," sentencing will follow.

Concurrently, the Yap State Supreme Court has set October 29 and 30 for both defendants to address the state's criminal complaints, a total of 19 counts ranging from murder and manslaughter to firearms possession. As of now, the judge and attorneys are planning to travel to Yap for those hearings if the travel ban has been lifted and Yap is allowing passengers to disembark. Those court dates are not published online; they are posted outside the courtroom at the Yap courthouse every Friday afternoon for the week following.

For more information, email Joyce McClure consultant, Yap State Department of Youth & Civic Affairs, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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