Colonia, Yap — The trial of Anthony Tun, one of the defendants in the murder of Yap's former acting attorney general, Rachelle Bergeron-Hammerling, has been rescheduled for Aug. 6.
Presiding Judge Jonathan M. Tun set the new trial date in response to the State of Yap’s motion to delay the proceedings, which were originally scheduled to begin on March 12 and have since been rescheduled a few times.
Anthony Tun did not respond to the state’s motion.
The other defendant, Francis Choay Buchun, did not oppose the state’s motion to postpone his trial until Aug. 13.
However, Presiding Judge Cyprian J. Manmaw denied the state’s request.
“The court needs to hold a hearing on when a trial date is appropriate because of the pandemic, defendant’s right to a speedy trial and other issues on which the court needs to hear the parties,” the court said.
That date has not yet been set as of this writing.
Bergeron-Hammerling, 33, an American citizen, was killed on Oct. 14, 2019 outside her house near Colonia, the island’s only town.
Legal proceedings have been slow due to the closing of the FSM’s border on Jan. 31, 2020 when the pandemic hit.
The defendants are facing 19 counts of charges that include murder, manslaughter and firearms possession. Both defendants pleaded not guilty and will be tried separately in bench trials.
Concurrently, the FSM Supreme Court has been proceeding slowly with its case against the two defendants for weapons and ammunition possession.
Associate Justice Larry Wentworth also postponed those trials until July, tentatively, based on the opening of the nation’s borders at some yet-to-be-announced time in the future.
Wentworth has used Zoom in the courtroom to conference in all of the participants during hearings, but the connection is not reliable or optimal.
The prosecutors, defense attorneys and witnesses from the FSM National Police and Yap State Police who participated in the investigation, arrests and interrogations, are based in Chuuk, Pohnpei and Yap.
Other potential witnesses include FBI agents who traveled to Yap to provide support for the police immediately after the incident and are based outside the country.
While the FSM borders are closed to incoming arrivals, interstate travel among the four island states is permitted since they are all Covid-free.
But the legal proceedings have been delayed until the border opens to allow witnesses from outside the country to be present at the trials.
The emergency declaration, which expires on May 31, has been extended every three months since its inception and may be extended again by the president and the FSM Congress.