On Wednesday, February 19, 2020, following a two-day criminal trial previously held on January 20-21, 2020, and the submission of briefs by the parties on points of law raised by Supreme Court Presiding Justice Oldiais Ngiraikelau, the Court announced its verdict and pronounced sentence in the matter of the Republic of Palau vs. Maria Gates-Meltel, Criminal Case No. 18-249. Defendant, former Angaur State Governor, Maria Gates-Meltel, was found guilty of two counts in a multi-count information: one felony count of Misconduct in Public Office (Count 4) and one misdemeanor count of a Criminal Violation of the Code of Ethics (Count 2). The remaining counts were dismissed.
Defendant was sentenced to one year of probation and restitution in the amount of $304.80 to the State of Angaur within three months of the date of the Judgment. The Court found Defendant, (in her official capacity as the Governor), authorized and procured the $304.80, by false pretenses, when she used Angaur State funds for her own benefit (payment for a roundtrip ticket from San Francisco, California, to Reno, Nevada, for a private purpose).
This case was first investigated by the Office of the Public Auditor, who forwarded the case to the Office of the Special Prosecutor for further investigation and prosecution. Special Prosecutor, April Dawn Cripps, and Assistant Special Prosecutor, Jacob Gordin, prosecuted the case. Former Assistant Special Prosecutor Timothy P. Zintak originally handled the prosecution.
Defendant has 30 days from the Final Judgment within which to file an appeal; otherwise, the verdict will stand.