April 15, 2009

The Kaselehlie Press

Palikir, Pohnpei - The trial on 13 charges filed by the FSM Department of Justice against former FSM Ambassador to the United States Jesse Marehalau began on April 6th at the FSM Supreme Court in Palikir. The charges were initially filed at the Supreme Court by former FSM Attorney General Marstella Jack on May 14, 2007. Court officials estimate that the trial may well last for at least a month.

On the morning of the third day of hearings, National Police officers carried into court six large banker's boxes of exhibits for the prosecution.

When Justice Yamase gaveled the court into session after a meeting with the opposing attorneys in his chambers, he announced and opposing attorneys confirmed that the Department of Justice had offered Marehalau a plea arrangement. It was the second offer of a plea arrangement and Marehalau was allowed 24 hours to confer with his family members about it.

At 10:30 on the following day when hearings began it was apparent that Marehalau had rejected the offer. The trial resumed with an acceptance of stipulations from both parties regarding the many pages of court exhibits followed by the testimony of Deputy Chief of Mission, James Naich.

Since the plea arrangement was not accepted it will not be a matter of public record what offer the Department of Justice made to the former Ambassador.

Other high level witnesses waited in the court library for their turn to testify.

The defense, which is being handled by Julius Joey Sapelalut, the FSM Public Defender, has subpoenaed the sitting President and some of his cabinet as well as former Presidents and Secretaries of the FSM so that they can testify in the matter.

Marehalau stands accused of two counts of Bribery in Official and Political Matters, one count of Criminal Conspiracy, four counts or Over-Obligation of Government Funds, two counts of Tampering with Public Records and Information, and four counts of Theft Against the Government.

Assistant Attorney General Pole Atanraoi represents the FSM Department of Justice in the trial.