Court accepts plea agreements in two separate drug cases
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man convicted of violating local drug laws was sentenced to 5 years probation.
Avei Tagaloa, who has been in custody since his arrest last year appeared in High Court last week for sentencing.
Tagaloa was initially charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, a felony. But under a plea agreement, accepted by the government in January of this year, Tagaloa pled guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, 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, Tagaloa admits that in August of last year, he possessed a glass pipe containing methamphetamine when police searched him during a public peace disturbance incident.
When given the chance to address the court, Tagaloa apologized and begged for a second chance to return home to care for his wife and children. He told the court that the 10 months he spent in jail was a very hard time for him, knowing that he had failed to fulfill his duty as a father and a husband.
Tagaloa’s wife was called to the stand by the defense attorney and in her own words, told the court that she wanted her husband released so that he can seek employment to provide for their family.
The defense attorney told the court that his client was a family man who worked very hard to provide for his wife and children. However, he lost his job when he was arrested in this matter. The attorney then asked the court to sentence Tagaloa to a probated sentence to allow him to go back home and seek gainful employment to provide for his family.
He further told the court that his client was caught with a small amount of methamphetamine in his possession.
The prosecutor echoed the defense’s statement for a probated sentence, saying that the government believes the defendant is truly remorseful for his crime and he is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence.
She also told the court that the defendant has already served 10-1/2 months in jail, while awaiting the outcome of his case.
The court wanted to know if the defendant’s Immigration status is still valid, and who is the defendant’s sponsor. According to the defendant’s attorney, his Immigration status is still current and his wife is his sponsor.
The court stated that there were many other defendants like Tagaloa who come before the court for unlawful possession of illegal drugs. However, the court feels that Tagaloa’s case is different from all other cases because he was living a useful life until he was arrested in this case.
“Your actions caused you your good family and your job,” the court told Tagaloa.
“You need to put a stop to this behavior before it gets worse and you will not want to see the bad outcome and the consequences of your actions.”
Tagaloa was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and a $2,000 fine. Execution of sentence was suspended and Tagaloa was placed on probation for the period of 5 years subject to several conditions.
He must serve a period of detention of 20 months without release, and was credited for the over 10 months he served during his pretrial detention. All but 10 months will be stayed until further order of the court, and the defendant is ordered to serve only 6 months of his detention.
Upon release from custody, the court ordered Tagaloa to remain law abiding and remain clean from alcohol and illegal drugs.
Tagaloa was told that this particular panel wants to invest in people’s lives. They believe that you’re one (who can learn from this) “but once you fail we can change our minds.”
A 23-year-old fisherman convicted of violating local drug laws promised the court that he will never come back to court for any offense in the future.
Aokuso Fale, who has been in custody for five months since his arrest in May of this year, unable to post his $10,000 surety bond, appeared in Court this week for sentencing.
Fale was initially charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, an unclassified felony, punishable by imprisonment from 5 to 10 years, a fine of up to $20,000, or both; along with 2 counts of 1st degree burglary and 2 counts of attempted stealing, all class C felonies, punishable by imprisonment of up to 7 years, a fine of up to $5,000 fine or pursuant to A.S.C.A 46.2101, a fine equal to twice the amount of gain from the commission of said crime, up to maximum of $20,000, or both such fine and imprisonment for each count.
Under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court in August of this year, Fale pled guilty to the amended charge of unlawful possession of methamphetamine. The remaining charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Fale admits that he unlawfully entered a store in Nuuuli on the night of May 12, 2020 for the purpose of committing a crime, however, when he was apprehended, cops found two glass pipes containing methamphetamine in his pocket.
When given the chance to address the court, Fale apologized for his action and requested a second chance. He told the court that he wanted to go back to fishing, to earn money for his elderly mother.
Attorneys from both side asked the court for a probated sentence.
The defense attorney told the court that his client is a fisherman for a local fishing vessel and he holds the position of a ‘master’ on the fishing vessel.
The prosecutor asked the court to adopt the recommendation by Probation and sentence the defendant to a term of probation.
According to the court, the circumstances that resulted in the arrest of the defendant stem from an incident where he attempted to burglarize a store in Nuuuli.
Fale was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. Execution of sentence was suspended and Fale was placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions.
He was ordered to serve a period of detention of 20 months at the Tafuna Correctional Facility (TCF), however, the court ordered Fale serve only 6 months of his period of detention. He will be credited for the 5 months he served during his pretrial conference detention, leaving a balance of one more month to serve.
The court ordered the defendant to seek and secure gainful employment to pay his $2,000 fines. Probation review is July 2021.
The court informed Fale that come July next year for his probation review, the court is expecting a report that can persuade them to modify his sentence. However, if he violates any of his probation conditions, it will be very hard for him to persuade the court not to send him back to jail to serve the remaining period of his sentence