Aua man in a theft case catches a break from the court
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man convicted of stealing lumber and cement was released from custody this week, after the court sentenced him to time served at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF).
Iese Fa’asavalu, who has a criminal record in the court system, appeared before Associate Justice Fiti A. Sunia this week for sentencing. Prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Doug Lowe, while Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill represented the defendant.
Faasavalu was initially charged with stealing and embezzlement, both class C felonies, along with trespass, a class A misdemeanor.
But under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, Faasavalu pled guilty to the amended count of conspiracy to commit stealing, a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
With his guilty plea, Faasavalu admits that on Jan. 15, 2019, he, along with another person, stole lumber and cement belonging to Ben Sauvao. Faasavalu said he assisted his co-defendant by loading the stolen items on to a truck and transporting them elsewhere without the owner’s permission.
Under the plea agreement, the government recommended probation and restitution of $1,300.
The defense called one witness to the stand, Fagamalama Fualaau, who testified that she’s known Fa’asavalu for over 20 years and he called her from the TCF, asking if she could testify on his behalf.
According to the witness, Faasavalu is like a son to her. He and his wife, along with their kids and grandkids, have lived on her family land in Aua for years. and Faasavalu is her right hand in everything from family matters, to the church and even the village.
According to Fualaau, Faasavalu has a drinking problem and she’s advised him many times to change his life and stay away from alcohol.
When given the chance to speak, Fa’asavalu apologized and begged for another chance to return home to care for his wife and family. He said the 9 months he spent in custody taught him a good lesson.
He also apologized to the victim, and blamed his alcohol problem for what he did. He promised that if given another chance, he will never break the law again, nor will he congregate with his friends who drink; instead, he will use the rest of his life to look after his family.
“I’m truly remorseful for what I did and I beg for your forgiveness and another chance so I can go back home to change my life and care for my family,” Faasavalu said.
Both attorneys recommended probation, saying Faasavalu is a suitable candidate. McNeill told the court that his client never benefitted from the items he and others stole from the victim.
He then asked the court not to order his client to depart the territory, due to his illegal immigration status, but allow him to renew his immigration ID and find a job so he can care for his family and pay his fine and restitution.
Before delivering his decision, Associate Justice Fiti Sunia noted that Faasavalu was convicted of unlawful possession of marijuana ten years ago. Sunia pointed out that according to the Pre Sentence Report (PSR), Faasavalu was intoxicated during the time of the offense and the sad part is, other men ran off with the lumber and cement while Faasavalu ran off with the police.
Faasavalu was sentenced to 5 years in jail. Execution of sentence is suspended and he is placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions. He has to serve 20 months at the TCF without any release. He is credited the 8 months he’s already served. The remaining 12 months of detention is deferred until further order of the court. Faasavalu is to pay a $1,000 fine within 30 days.
“Mr. Faasvalu, we don’t like to see people again. IF we see you again, maybe that will be the last time you will see us. So don’t come back to court. Do something good for your life and for your future,” Sunia said.
According to court records, Faasavalu was convicted of unlawful possession of marijuana and was ordered to serve 20 months in jail, as a condition of his 5-year probation sentence handed down in 2009.
That case came to light after police discovered a marijuana plant at his home in Aua, along with green leafy substances inside his shack.