DISTRICT COURT ROUNDUP
The District Court yesterday was crowded with families and friends of individuals who were taken into custody during the Christmas weekend road block for violating local laws such as those governing public and private peace disturbance, driving while under the influence of alcohol and underage drinking.
Many of the 24 individuals who made their initial court appearance yesterday were released pending another court hearing and were ordered by the court not to violate any law while their case is pending in court.
Of those taken into custody over the Christmas weekend, eleven were for DUI, three for under age drinking and eleven for public peace disturbance.
Since the police enforcement began Dec. 21 and lasted up until yesterday morning about 32 people were taken into custody for various incidents where local laws were violated. There were a handful of traffic incidents, but none were serious.
There was one case where the person tried to commit suicide.
Capt. Lavatai Ta’ase Sagapolutele, who heads the Criminal Investigation Division, spoke on behalf of Police Commissioner Tuaolo M. Fruean, thanking the public for their continued cooperation and support for police during the Christmas road blocks and enforcement.
Compared to past years, Lavatai said, it appears the numbers this year are lower and this means the people of American Samoa did have a Merry Christmas this year.
Police enforcement for the holiday will be ongoing through the morning of Jan. 2, 2012. In addition to road blocks, police will also beef up patrol island-wife to prevent any major incidents from occurring in the territory as we all head toward the New Year.
After being detained behind bars at the Territorial Correctional Facility for almost a year, Rickie Tyrell was released last Friday from custody and spent Christmas with his family. He was released based on an agreement between the parties and approved by the High Court.
In late January this year, the government charged him with two felonies — rape and sexual abuse in the first degree — and a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child for an incident that occurred Jan. 13, where he allegedly had sexual intercourse with a minor.
The alleged victim told police that it was Jan. 13 that the defendant allegedly raped her. She further alleges in court documents that since September or October last year, Tyrell has been touching her in a sexual manner.
This case was reported to a police by the minor’s school counselors, who were told by the minor that she was allegedly raped by Tyrell.
The government has completed its investigation into the case of a car that hit a utility pole more than a week ago and does not plan to file felony charges against the driver, Kevin Kornegay, who is the in-house attorney for LBJ Medical Center.
Kornegay appeared in District Court last Monday for his initial appearance for driving while under the influence and careless driving — both misdemeanor charges — while the government continued their investigation.
During a court appearance last Friday, Assistant Attorney General Blake Hanley informed the bench that the government is not filing any additional charges against Kornegay.
District Court Judge John Ward II questioned the government if the guidelines used by the Attorney General's Office in this case are the same for all other cases where a driver who was injured is not faced with additional felony charges. Hanley replied, “yes”
Kornegay has denied the misdemeanor charges and will have a pre trial conference on Jan. 24, 2012.
It’s unclear if Kornegay was driving a private vehicle at the time of the alleged accident.
TAUMAOE JR TAUFETEE AND TAAI TAUFETE’E
The government last Friday filed additional charges — all misdemeanors — against two brothers, accused of property damage at a store in Nu’uuli. The defendants are from the village of Nu’uuli.
The two were initially charged with public peace disturbance but the new charges have Taumaoe Taufete’e Jr. charged with assault in the third degree and resisting arrest while the additional charge for Ta’ai Taufete’e is property damage.
The government alleges that one of the brothers threw rocks towards the door of a Nu’uuli store, causing damage, while the other allegedly used threatening words to police officers who responded to the call for assistance.
The defendants have denied the charges against them and their pre trial conference is set for Jan. 4. Both have been able to post bail.
The High Court last week released Heperoni Maota from custody and he was ordered to abide by all conditions of release.
Maota was sentenced several months ago to 28 months imprisonment for burglary and was released from the Territorial Correctional Facility recently after serving the required time. Part of his release from TCF calls for the defendant to abide by several conditions of his seven-year probation and among the conditions is for him not to violate any laws.
But more than a week ago, he was taken into custody for public peace disturbance and when his case was called, the defendant admitted to the crime. He was again released from confinement, while the Probation Office monitors his behavior.
Samoa News reporter Ausage Fausia contributed to this report.
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