Folasa Galea'i charged with vehicular homicide - a felony

Claims he fell asleep at the wheel when he struck and killed an elderly man
ausage@samoanews.com

Folasa Galea'i, who is facing one count of vehicular homicide for the death of a man in his late 60s earlier this year in June, allegedly told police that he fell asleep at the wheel.

Galea’i’s case was bound over to the High Court, after District Court Judge Fiti A. Sunia found probable cause to support the charge against him, during a preliminary examination hearing (PX) last week.

The defendant appeared before Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea for his arraignment last week, where he entered a not guilty plea, and his pretrial conference is now set for Nov. 3, 2017.

PX

Prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Robert Morris, while Assistant Public Defender Kate Hannaher is representing the defendant, who is out on a $2,500 surety bond.

Public Safety Officer (PSO) Lomu Mosese, the lead investigator, was the only witness the government called to the stand during Thursday’s PX.

Direct and cross-examination of Mosese centered on whether the defendant acted carelessly, while driving on the road, causing the death of the victim, or whether the vehicle instead had a mechanical problem.

According to Mosese’s sworn testimony, it was around 2:15p.m on June 9, 2017 that the Department of Public Safety received a phone call about a car accident in the Fagaalu area, and he was thereafter assigned to investigate.

Mosese was asked by Morris to explain what he saw when he first arrived at the scene. Mosese told the court that he saw a lot of people in the area where the accident occurred, including some other police officers who arrived at the scene before him — and a man was lying on the other side of the road. He also noticed that an orange pick-up truck had struck the cement wall next to the front gate of the Matafao school entrance, at the section of the campus for children with disabilities.

“When I exited my police unit, I saw Deputy Commissioner Vaimaga Maiava assisting EMS personnel, trying to revive the victim by applying CPR, and when I came closer to where the victim was lying, I noticed that blood covered his facial area with multiple injuries to his head and his face. His hands were moving while EMS personnel applied CPR.”

After the victim’s body was taken to the LJB Hospital by the EMS unit for further treatment, Mosese said he interviewed the victim’s wife, who said she was in the car with her husband when they came down from their house to take some flowers to one of their friends. She said her husband stopped the car because he heard something coming from the engine and he went outside to try and fix the problem. (The car did not stop on the main road.)

According to the victim’s wife, it was after her husband had finished fixing the car’s problem — and her husband was standing in front of their car — that she saw an orange pick-up truck coming from the west side going east, traveling at high speed, heading towards their vehicle, which then struck her husband, causing him to roll to the side of the road.

Mosese told the court that the defendant’s car was traveling at a high speed, which caused the car to cross the double yellow lines in the middle of the road, until it reached the mountainside where the victim’s car was parked, and hit the victim, causing multiple injuries to his body, including his head and facial area.

He added that the damage to the front side of the vehicle proved that the vehicle was speeding.

When asked about how the accident happened, Galea’i, who was inside a police unit, told Mosese that he fell asleep while he was driving. He said that he was heading to the Tax Office in Utulei to drop off some documents when the accident happened.

A certified mechanic evaluated the orange pick-up truck and stated in his report to police that the car was in good condition before the accident occurred.

The defendant was later transported to the Fagatogo Central Police Station for questioning, where he agreed to speak to police about the accident, after he was read his Miranda Rights.

After the defendant was interviewed, Mosese went to the hospital to follow up on the victim’s injuries, and it was then that Dr. Porotesano informed him that the man had died due to multiple injuries to his head and facial area.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Hannaher asked the witness if he was the one who drafted the report about the matter, and Mosese replied yes, he wrote the full report.

Hannaher then told Mosese that it appears there is some contradicting information from his sworn testimony, and what was written inside his report.

For example, she said, Mosese in his testimony says that after he read Galea’i’s Miranda Rights at the Fagatogo Police Station, her client agreed to talk, and after that, he (Mosese) then headed out to the hospital to follow up on the victim’s condition. It is at this time — when he went to the hospital, according to Mosese’s testimony, that Dr. Porotesano informed him the victim was dead.

However, Hannaher said, according to Mosese’s report, he was first informed by the doctor that the victim was dead, before he interviewed her client, and it was after he interviewed her client that his Miranda Rights were read.

Mosese responded that he stands by his report and everything he said during his testimony reflects everything he wrote in the report.

Hannaher asked the witness if the hospital conducted an autopsy to determine the cause of death, before the information was given to him, and Mosese replied no, there was no autopsy conducted that day to determine the cause of death, but it was based on the doctor’s evaluation — that the victim died from multiple injuries to his head and facial area.

Vehicular homicide is a class D felony punishable by not more that 5 years imprisonment, or a fine of not more that $5,000 or both.

BACKGROUND

In 2014, Folasa Galea’i was sentenced by Associate Justice Lyle L. Richmond to two years probation and ordered to pay a fine of $1,000 after he was convicted of conspiracy to commit the offense of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, a misdemeanor.

His conviction stems from an incident that happened in May 2012, when Galea’i was accused by the government of claiming a package that came through the mail containing a large quantity of methamphetamine and marijuana that were found in four tomato cans.

As a result, he was charged him with two felony counts: unlawful possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, with the intent to distribute; and unlawful possession of a controlled substance, marijuana, with the intent to distribute, which was later amended to a misdemeanor charge under a plea agreement with the government.

When questioned about the package, Galea’i told police that it belonged to his uncle, but he refused to reveal his uncle’s name.

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