Palau president slams lenient drug sentences as “totally unacceptable”
Palau President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. has blasted the plea bargain accepted by the Palau Attorney General’s Office allowing DHL heir Larry ‘Imeong” Hillbroom to beat a jail term for drug charges.
“It’s totally unacceptable,” Remengesau told reporters.
The once-trumpeted zero drug-policy of the Remengesau government appeared to suffer several setbacks due to Hillbroom’s no jail time sentence.
“We are at war with illegal drugs. I don’t want to see a person simply because he has resources or money to plea bargain his way out of jail with only a required rehabilitation,” the president said.
Remengesau said that anyone convicted of a drug related charges should have a commensurate jail sentence. He said that is the reason for the laws calling for stiff penalties of up to 25 years in jail.
Though he faced a total of 75 years of prison time and between $150, 000 and $3 million in fines for three felony charges of Trafficking of a Controlled Substance (Methamphetamine-ICE), the millionaire heir to the DHL fortune, escaped prison time.
It was not Hillbroom's first brush with the law or receipt of probation in lieu of prison time. Following a 2016 arrest, also on drug charges, Hillbroom was convicted of escaping from the Koror jail and received 5 years probation.
In the more recent cases, Hillbroom pleaded “No Contest” to a lesser charge of conspiracy to trafficking a controlled substance, in his plea bargaining agreement with the AGO office.
The terms of the sentence agreed to by Hillbroom and the republic and accepted by the court are as follows: 10-year probation to be reduced to seven years if Hillbroom completes inpatient rehabilitation; 5-year incarceration to be served if he fails to complete the rehabilitation; pay a fine of $50,000; complete an intensive inpatient six-month rehabilitation, cost of which to be paid by Hillbroom; Incarceration will commence on September 2, 2018 if Hillbroom has not entered the rehab program; before Sept. 2, Hillbroom shall be subject to drug tests on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 5 and 7pm; the Sept. 2 entry into rehab program may be extended if good cause is shown; and travel overseas before Sept. 25 or during the 6-month rehab, may be allowed for civil litigation but Hillbroom will be accompanied by two police officers at his own expense.
Other drug convicts receive much harsher penalties because they have no resources to plea bargain with the AGO.
“What about the other people who were also convicted?” Remengesau asked.
President Remengesau said that he will be raising the issue with the Attorney General and the prosecutors.
“If it’s a question of lack of staffing then hire additional lawyers or if there’s someone in the office who doesn’t share the same belief in a strong fight against illegal drugs then they should resign,” Remengesau further said.
Vice President and Minister of Justice Raynold Oilouch said he has met with Attorney General Ernestine Rengiil and the prosecutor handling the case.
Oilouch said the prosecutors indicated to him that if they had proceeded with Hillbroom’s trial, the government would have lost the case against him.The vice president echoed Remengesau’s sentiment that the AG’s office should not have accepted an agreement without a jail sentence.
Oilouch said he told the AG that he would have preferred that the case went on to trial.