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Attorneys make opening statements in LE AUTE owners’ drug trial

American Samoa High Court building
Prosecution: She’s a dealer; Defense: Prove it…

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Jury instructions and opening statements for the jury trial of the owner of the LE AUTE Sports Bar, Tumuatasi Lefatia a.k.a MAMA accused of violating local drug laws began yesterday in High Court.

Lefatia, who is out of bond, is charged with 4 felony counts, including unlawful possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine (meth); unlawful possession of a controlled substance, meth with the intent to distribute; unlawful possession of a control substance, marijuana; and unlawful possession of a controlled substance, marijuana with the intent to distribute.

A seven-member jury — five females and two males was selected on Monday.

Lefatia is represented by private attorneys Marcellus Talaimalo Uiagalelei and David Vargas; while prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General, Kristine Soule.

Yesterday’s focus was on opening statements delivered by each side — Soule for the prosecution and Uiagalelei for the defense — giving the jury a glimpse of what the evidence will or will not prove.


For the prosecution, Soule told jurors that there is a drug epidemic in the territory — and that the epidemic is created by those who deal drugs such as meth and marijuana. This drug epidemic, according to Soule, has destroyed many lives in the this community, and that the people who benefit from this are those who sell the drugs that poison these lives — and Lefatia is one of them.

During this trial, Soule told jurors they will hear evidence that drugs were found in a bedroom where Lefatia was sleeping on the morning of Sept. 12 when detectives from the Vice and Narcotics Unit executed a search warrant to the defendant’s house in Malaeloa.

During the police raid, methamphetamine and marijuana were allegedly discovered in the bedroom while some drugs were also found in the defendant’s possession, according to the prosecutor.

Soule said the drugs that were found were already packed inside baggies ready to distribute to the community and the amount of drugs allegedly found in her possession prove her intention to sell these drugs — to poison many lives in this community.

When detectives entered the bedroom, not only did they discover drugs but there were also young children present. Soule told jurors that as the trial continues this week that not only they will get a chance to ‘see’ the drugs found inside the bedroom but they will also ‘hear’ from several police officers that they found the drugs inside the bedroom, along with the defendant.

She concluded by asking members of the jury to keep an open mind and help to protect the community from this drug epidemic by finding the defendant, guilty of all charges, and put a stop to this drug epidemic.


Uiagalelei in his opening remarks told the jury that any person who is charged with a crime will remain innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He reminded the jury of the instructions the court gave them during the first day of this proceedings, regarding a person being innocent until proven guilty.

“And that’s why we’re here,” Uiagalelei said.

“The government’s burden is to prove to you that my client is guilty. So, I’m not asking you to take her side. All I’m asking is for you to keep an open mind and reserve your judgment until all evidence is presented to you.”

Uiagalelei asked the jury to be patient throughout trial, and keep an open mind so they can see the evidence the government is going to present; and the evidence will provide a clear picture of the case because his client is an innocent woman. And for that reason, he asked the jury to find Lefatia not guilty.

The trial resumes at 9am today.

Presiding is Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea, assisted by Associate Judges Suapaia J. Pereira and Paepae I. Faiai.


On March 2015, the police raided the Le Aute Bar with 30 officers participating. As a result of the raid, Lefatia was charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, meth, which carries a jail term from five to ten years and a fine between $5,000 and $20,000.

She was also charged with three counts of unlawful possession of a weapon and each charge was a class A misdemeanor, punishable with up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000 or both.

However in a plea agreement with the government, one of the three misdemeanor counts was amended to illegal possession of firearm ammunition, to which the defendant pleaded guilty, while the rest of the charges were dismissed.

Lefatia was sentenced to one year in jail however execution of the sentence was suspended and she was placed on a two-year probation with the condition that she serves 90 days in jail. She was also ordered to pay a fine of $1,000 and to remain a law-abiding citizen and was not allowed to be in possession of drugs.

While still on probation, a search warrant was executed on the sports bar that also doubles as Lefatia’s home. Drugs and paraphernalia were allegedly found in the bedroom where she was found as well as in the laundry room. A young woman and a child were also present in the same bedroom as Lefatia when police found the defendant. It is for this case she is currently on trial.