ISAAKO TAUSA’AMALU TRIAL
The High Court will sentence defendant Isaako Tausa’amalu on July 15 after he was convicted last Friday by a jury on misdemeanor charges of assault in the third degree and public peace disturbance.
The four women and two men on the jury last week, however, acquitted Tausa’amalu of the more serious felony charge of first-degree assault. The charges stemmed from an incident in August of last year where he had allegedly assaulted Kalena Atalima who ended up being hospitalized.
During trial, prosecutor Tony Graf recalled that on the night of the alleged assault, the defendant had sent the victim, Kalena Atalima, to the store with $20 to buy five bottles of beer, for the pair and a third friend.
But instead, Atalima returned with only two bottles of beer and no change from the $20. The government claims that the defendant then hit the defendant on the side of the face with a closed fist, resulting in the victim falling to the ground, hitting his head on a cement slab.
Not long there after, the government claims, the defendant and the third man left the scene while the victim remained at the location where the incident occurred. A village man who passed through the area early the next morning to go fishing found the victim still lying on the ground where he had fallen.
Government witnesses who testified, included police Det. Filemoni Amituana’i who said that the defendant told him that he was very angry with the victim for returning with only two bottles of beer and no change. Amituana’i also testified that the defendant told him that he hit the defendant hard on the side of the face using his closed fist and that the victim had fallen and hit his head.
Amituana’i further testified that the defendant then left the scene with the third man.
When police arrived on the scene they found the victim wearing only his boxers, and Amituana’i told the jury that the defendant told him that he had removed the victim’s shorts to find out if there was any money in the pockets for change from the $20.
Tausa’amalu, who took the witness stand, told the jury that he didn’t punch the victim, but instead slapped him hard and the victim swayed back-and-forth but didn’t fall as claimed by the government. Tausa’amalu did admit he was angry with the victim for coming back with only two beers but everything was resolved that night as he went to get food for all three of them.
He also said that the victim is a very good friend and that he would never do anything to hurt his friend.
Tausa’amalu’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Joel Shiver told the jury that there was never any intention on the part of the defendant to cause any injury to the victim and there is no evidence or testimony to prove that the defendant had intended to hurt or injure the victim, who was the defendant's friend.
The High Court released Fiapapalagi Letuli from the Territorial Correctional Facility based on a recommendation by the Probation Office after the defendant had paid early the full restitution ordered by the court.
Letuli appeared last Friday in court for a probation review hearing where her attorney Matailupevao Leupolu Jr., said he supports the Probation Office recommendation to release his client from TCF because she has paid in full the $7,860.65 restitution ordered by the court when Letuli was sentenced in February this year.
The case against Letuli stemmed from the time she had worked at the American Samoa Economic Stimulus Development Recovery office (ASESRO), where she forged the signature and cashed the paycheck of another employee who was off island.
She was sentenced to seven years in jail, however the execution of sentence was suspended and she was placed on probation for a period of seven years under the condition she serve 28 months in jail. Letuli was also ordered to pay restitution to the government in the amount of $7,860.65.
During last Friday’s hearing, the defense attorney pointed out that restitution has been paid in full and that his client has spent 145 days at TCF.
However, prosecutor Tony Graf said the government remained concerned that the defendant had spent such a small amount of time—about four months—at TCF. He recommended that the defendant spend a few more months in jail.
However, the court allowed the defendant to be released from TCF last Friday after giving its approval. She was told that the court would—at a future time—review her case again. She was also ordered to continue to abide with the conditions of her probation.
(The original Samoan versions of these two stories were published in last week’s Lali section of Samoa News)