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Bench warrant issued for missing prisoner

American Samoa High Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — James Taito was not present in High Court last Friday for his preliminary examination and a bench warrant has been issued.

When Taito's case was called, his lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill told the court his client was not present, neither was he in custody at TCF.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse wanted clarification.

McNeill said he went personally to the TCF and Taito was not there.

Kruse, while looking through his file, said there is no release form for Taito.

An official from the Probation Office explained that Taito was jailed earlier this year due to his immigration status but by Dec. 14th, when he was scheduled for a court appearance, he had renewed his immigration papers and he did appear for the scheduled court hearing.

According to the Probation Office, Taito had posted a $200 bond, set by District Court Judge Fiti Sunia, and that's why he isn't in custody.

It was mentioned that Taito was involved in a burglary a few years ago and he had served his sentence completely.

For the purpose of last Friday's proceedings, Kruse asked McNeiil, "Was your client present when this hearing was set?" McNeill said yes.

Kruse then ordered that a bench warrant be issued, with no bail.

To the Probation Office he said, "I want Taito's immigration status in my file."