Verdict awaited in Yap’s murder case
Defense says suspect only meant to ‘scare’ Bergeron
By Joyce McClure
Anthony Tun, one of the two suspects in the murder of Yap’s acting Attorney General Rachelle Bergeron only meant to “scare” the American prosecutor into leaving the island to stall pending criminal cases against his cousin, according to defense attorney Marstella Jack.
Jack said there was no conspiracy, but the government’s attorney, Jeffrey S. Tilfas, maintained that Tun and his co-defendant, Francis Chaoy Buchun, “acted in concert” to plan and execute “the violent act.”
Regardless of Tun’s claim that the purpose of the shooting was to scare Bergeron, Tilfas pointed out that the acting attorney general “was not shot once or twice, but three times from a deadly weapon.”
After a monthlong bench trial, the Yap State Court is preparing its decision on the murder case that drew international attention in 2019.
The trial was delayed due to Covid-related border closures that hampered travel logistics and disrupted court proceedings.
The prosecution and defense filed their closing arguments on Nov. 14 and 18 for Tun’s case.
Buchun’s trial has also been completed. The closing arguments will take place in open court on Dec. 29.
In her closing arguments, Jack claimed Tun shot at Bergeron’s surroundings so she would leave the island because she was “going out of her way” to prosecute his cousin Buchun for “several individual offenses.”
Bergeron just returned home from jogging when she was shot dead.
Tun was charged on Nov. 20, 2019 with conspiracy to commit murder, murder, manslaughter, assault with a dangerous weapon, threats and coercion, among others.
The defense stated that there was no proof of a conspiracy to commit murder, and that pointing the weapon, a 12-gauge shotgun, and discharging the three bullets was not “reckless” in a way that demonstrated “extreme indifference to the value of human life.”
Tun never had any issue with Bergeron, Jack said. She cited the testimony given by FSM Police Capt. Kasner Aldens, who said that the presumption that Tun was trying to protect his cousin from being charged with criminal offenses was “a dead end.”
On the prosecution’s side, Tilfas’ filing appended 38 exhibits including a recorded interview with Bergeron’s husband, Simon Hämmerling, who was at home when the shooting occurred; footage from home security cameras showing Bergeron calling for help; photos of the shotshells and their location; recordings of Buchun and Tun giving voluntary statements; and a recording of the two defendants conversing about disposing of the firearm.
Citing “a crime of ghastly proportions,” the prosecution stated that Bergeron was a few feet away from her husband and their adopted daughter when several witnesses heard three “loud bangs.”
Tilfas said Tun’s confession and Buchun’s interview indicated that they planned to shoot Bergeron and scouted the location prior to the crime.
According to the document, Tun loaded all three bullets into the weapon provided by Buchun, waited 30 minutes at the ridgeline across from Bergeron’s residence, and “pulled the trigger until all three ammunitions loaded were fired and ejected.”
Tun left the spent shells at the scene where they were later collected by the police. He later revealed that the gun was hidden in tall grass at the shoreline of Taneyboch in Chamorro Bay.
Even if the court finds that there was no intention to kill Bergeron, the prosecution said, Tun’s confession and Buchun’s interview proved “more than a reasonable doubt” that there was an attempt to harm Bergeron.
The prosecution noted that Tun had firearm training while serving as an MP officer in the past.
Evidence also showed that Bergeron tried to escape after the first shot, but fell on the ground. She was then shot two more times, resulting in multiple wounds including one to her heart, the prosecution added.
As for the terrorizing charges, the prosecution noted that Hämmerling and their adopted daughter were indeed terrorized.
The prosecution said the evidence showed that Tun “did the heinous act” to stop Bergeron from prosecuting Buchun, who was charged with human trafficking.
Defense witness Nathaniel Linglemog testified that Buchun’s uncle, Francis Tamag, went to his house and warned him that “if Rachelle put her nose where it does not belong, something might happen to her.”
According to the prosecution, Linglemog’s testimony indicated Tun’s participation in an attempt to interfere with justice.
The FSM Supreme Court has scheduled the hearings for the national charges of weapon and ammunition possession for February 2023.