KOROR, PALAU – Wednesday afternoon, December 7, 2022, the Office of the Special Prosecutor, together with Lieutenant Colonel Amanda Owens from the Oceania Engagement Team, US Army, and Semdiu Decherong, a Palauan native, engaged in a DUI outreach program with the students of Mindszenty High School. In early December 2021, I charged Mr. Semdiu Decherong (“Semdiu”) with Misconduct in Public Office, Criminal Property Damage, Theft of Government Property in the 1st Degree, Violation of the Code of Ethics, and Driving Under the Influence (DUI). In advance of his arraignment on the charges, Semdiu paid to have the property damage caused by his actions repaired. Additionally, he spoke to each of the victims and made amends to them.
I previously prosecuted numerous misdemeanor DUI cases for two years and felony DUI cases involving death and serious bodily injury for six more years. Based on knowledge and experience, I recognized the possible signs of alcoholic abuse in the actions of Mr. Decherong that led to his arrest. While conviction and jail are usually the manner in which we deal with DUI charges, jail does not change alcohol abuse. It is a disease and needs to be addressed in every country, not just Palau. I offered Semdiu a way to address his problems with alcohol and use his experience in such a way that Palau would benefit, i.e., by completing an in-depth evaluation of substance abuse, completing a recommended program of recovery, and utilizing his experience, including the cost of his DUI personally and professionally, through DUI outreach to high school students and the Palau Community College. Semdiu accepted, pleading guilty to the DUI, spending a day in jail followed by 1 year of probation, 20 hours of community service with the OSP conducting DUI outreach, and having a restricted license used only for work and to attend any aftercare for his period of recovery.
Principal Alan Marbou arranged for us to present our first DUI outreach today. Holiday seasons are stressful, and alcoholic consumption and abuse is known to increase more than two-fold during this time. The students listened intently to Lt. Colonel Owen’s presentation that included a reading of a heart-rending letter of regret written by an incarcerated defendant to the families of loved ones he killed though DUI manslaughter. Lt. Colonel Owen’s presentation led into Semdiu’s frank and open discussion with the students of his alcohol abuse from a very early age up to the time of his arrest. He spoke of the cost to him personally and professionally and noted the improvements in his life and health now that he ceased alcohol consumption – almost one year sober – and engaging with others without the need for alcohol.
The OSP will continue to conduct DUI outreach, but today, my hat is off to Semdiu for having the moral courage to speak up and change his negative experience into a positive outcome that will benefit not only himself, but Palau.
We also want to thank Principal Marbou, the Mindszenty High School students, and the parents/staff who patiently waited for us to complete our program, as well as Lt. Colonel Owens, Sergeant First Class Jordon Galvez, and attorney C. Quay Polloi, who also attended or participated in today’s events.
Happy Holidays, Palau, and may all of us enjoy a safe and joyous holiday season.
April Dawn Cripps
Republic of Palau