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Another man convicted of drug charges cries to go home to his family

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man from Samoa who pled guilty to meth possession is ordered to serve 20 months at the TCF as a condition of his 5-year probation.

Lasalo Iakopo appeared in Court last month for sentencing. He has been in custody since his arrest in February 2020, unable to post a $10,000 surety bond.

Iakopo was initially charged with one count of unlawful possession of meth; and one court of unlawful possession of marijuana — both felonies punishable by imprisonment of 5-10 years, a fine between $5,000- $20,000 or both.

Under a plea agreement accepted by the Court two months ago, Iakopo pled guilty to the amended charge of unlawful possession of meth, a class D felony punishable by up to 5 years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.

Iakopo admits that on Feb. 21, 2020 he had on him, drugs and paraphernalia when police pulled over his vehicle for a traffic violation.

When given the chance to speak, Iakopo apologized and begged for a second chance so he can return home and care for his wife and kids. He told the court that his eldest son left for school last month, leaving his wife and their 5 young kids at home.

With tears in his eyes, Iakopo said he’s remorseful and knows his kids really need him home.

Defense attorney Rob McNeill asked the court to adopt Probation’s recommendation in the Pre Sentence Report (PSR), and sentence Iakopo to probation. He said Iakopo is a first-time offender, and the drugs found on him were for personal use. The prosecutor echoed the defense submission.

According to the court, Iakopo was pulled over because the light on his license plate was not on, and his turn signal wasn't flashing when he turned onto Ithe liili Road on the night of the incident.

Iakopo didn't have any for of identification on him, including a license. While speaking to Iakopo, an officer noticed a cut-up straw "commonly used to scoop meth” on the back seat of the vehicle.

Subsequently, the vehicle was impounded to the Tafuna Police Station. An inventory of the vehicle netted a stamp-sized baggie with a small amount of a crystalline substance, which later tested positive for meth, on the floor behind the driver's seat.

Iakopo was searched, and police discovered a stamp-sized baggie containing a crystalline substance inside his left pants pocket. In his right pocket, police found a glass pipe containing a crystalline substance which later tested positive for meth.

Iakopo admitted to police that he started smoking meth 3 months prior, because it “gives him a good time and strength to do his chores at home and his plantation."

Iakopo was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. Execution of the sentence was suspended and he was placed on 5 years probation subject to several conditions. He has to serve 20 months at the TCF, and was credited with the 13 months he has already served. Other conditions of probation require him to remain law abiding, be alcohol and drug free, and he is to pay a $1,000 fine.