Court hears stealing charges, plea agreements, and more drug charges
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man who was convicted of stealing was released from custody last week, after the High Court determined that the 12 months he served at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF), to await sentencing, was enough.
Pule Uati, under a plea agreement with the government, pled guilty to the amended charge of stealing, a class C felony, punishable by not more than 7 years imprisonment, and/or a fine of not more than $5,000.
With his guilty plea, Uati admits that sometime during September 19th of last year, he misappropriated property that belonged to his uncle and his uncle’s wife.
During sentencing, Uati apologized to the government, the court, and people of American Samoa for his behavior and asked for forgiveness, noting, “Please, I want to go home to my family.
The defense attorney asked the court to give Uati another chance. He said his client is only 20 years old, very immature, and he has advised him to think about his future. He said his client is a suitable candidate for probation. The prosecutor echoed the statement.
The court said that while Uati is young, the pre-sentence report shows that he's had a prior run-in with the law.
Uati was placed on probation for 5 years under certain conditions. He has to remain a law abiding at all times, visit the probation office once a month, and serve 20 months at the TCF.
“You will be credited the 14 months you have already served; the balance of 6 months will be stayed as long as you comply with all conditions of your probation,” the court told Uati, who was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine within 6 months, and secure gainful employment.
A young man convicted of stealing equipment belonging to the government and later violating local drug laws is going to jail. Malua Ulu was ordered to serve 20 months at the TCF as a condition of his 5-year probation.
Ulu, who has been in custody since his arrest, unable to post a $10,000 surety bond, appeared in High Court last week for sentencing.
The government charged Ulu in two separate cases: first-degree burglary and stealing in the first case, and unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth) in the second case.
But under a plea agreement with the government, Ulu pled guilty to stealing and the amended charge of unlawful possession of meth.
Ulu admits that on Dec. 20, 2020, he entered government property at the Industrial Park in the Tafuna area and took off with equipment, which he later sold to a man for drugs. Three days later, on Dec. 23rd when he was arrested for the stealing case, cops found on him two glass pipes containing meth.
When given the chance to speak, Fulu, a US citizen, apologized and asked for forgiveness. He asked the court to allow him to depart the territory and return to the U.S. where his parents reside, so he can find a job and care for them. He said he prefers living in the U.S. rather than in American Samoa.
Attorneys from both sides asked for probation.
While the court told the defense attorney that based on the information the court has it believes American Samoa is the best place for his client to live, the court would suspend its sentence and allow him to return to his parents if there is a return airline ticket for Fulu to return to the U.S.
Fulu was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. Execution of the sentence was suspended and he was placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions including that he serve 20 months at the TCF. He was credited for the time he spent in pretrial confinement, which was 14 months and the remainder was stayed.
Fulu was released after he was sentenced by the court.
Associate Justice Fiti Sunia rejected a signed plea agreement between the government and a female defendant accused of violating local drug laws, after the defendant told the court her defense attorney did not explain nor read to her the whole plea agreement.
Rosemarie Siale appeared before Sunia this week for a Change of Plea hearing. She was represented by Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill, while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey.
When Siale’s case was called, prosecutor Garvey read out in open court the terms of the plea agreement. After the agreement was read out, Sunia took up some matters with the defendant, asking her questions.
One of the many questions the court asked the defendant was whether she had read the plea agreement.
In her own words, Siale replied, “The plea agreement was brought over to me at the TCF by my counsel and he told me to sign it, but it was never read or explained to me.”
Sunia immediately rejected the plea agreement and rescheduled another hearing for next week.
Sunia told Siale that she needs to read the agreement first before she signs it. The court told her, “You shouldn’t sign something that you don’t understand.”
Sunia then ordered the defense attorney McNeill to do an amended plea agreement, and to let Ms. Siale review and read it, before she signs it.
The charge against Siale stems from an incident when police pulled over a vehicle for a traffic violation. Siale was the passenger while her co-defendant, Eddieboy Va’avale was the driver.
Va’avale is charged with possession of illegal drugs, intent to distribute, and possession of illegal arms.
Siale, who has been in custody since her arrest in January of this year, is charged with one count of unlawful possession of meth, a felony.
She was unable to post a $5,000 surety bond, and is scheduled to appear in court on May 12 for her another hearing.
A 33-year-old man with several bench warrants, and who also owes hundreds of dollars in traffic fines, was arrested last month for drugs.
Malaki Sinapati who is charged with one count of unlawful possession of meth, made his initial appearance in court two weeks ago.
The court set bail at $5,000 surety bond.
If he posts bond, Sinapati is ordered to abide by the usual bond restrictions, and must pay his outstanding traffic fines totaling $580.
During Monday’s proceedings, Sinapati’s attorney asked the court to quash the two bench warrants the court issued to arrest his client. He said Sinapati was unaware of his court hearings.
The court reminded Sinapati that whenever he is ordered to appear in court, it’s his duty to make the court his first priority. He was also advised him to take this first incident as a lesson.
Sinapati’s preliminary examination is next Tuesday, May 12.
According to the government, police stopped a vehicle in Nu’uuli area for false plates and too many lights on the vehicle.
Two people were inside the truck when it was pulled over: a male driver, later identified as Vaega Wilson, and Sinapati, who was in the passenger seat.
The vehicle was impounded due to the driver not having any type of identification on him, including a driver’s license that was later found to have expired two years ago.
A clear glass pipe with meth inside was discovered on Sinapati, and in the vehicle clear glass pipe with a usable amount of meth inside, was also discover later, along with several empty small ziplock baggies commonly used to package meth, on the passenger side of the vehicle.
Wilson and Sinapati were interviewed separately at the TPS.
Wilson is alleged to have told police that there was a small baggie containing meth that Sinapati hid under his seat. Officers went back to the vehicle to check and found it.
He also told investigators he had no knowledge of the small baggie and drug paraphernalia that were found inside his vehicle, and everything belonged to Sinapati.
The driver was cited for driving a vehicle with false plates and an expired driver’s license. He was later released pending an investigation.
When confronted by police, Sinapati verbally stated that he didn’t know who owned the glass pipes and the small baggie containing meth that were found inside the vehicle, saying he found the glass pipe when he entered the vehicle. Sinapati refused to provide a written statement.
The crystalline substance from the clear glass pipe discovered on Sinapati was tested and yielded positive results for meth.
In 2011, the High Court sentenced Sinapati to 5 years probation under the condition that he serve 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF), after being convicted of unlawful possession of marijuana.
A 40-year-old man who was picked up pursuant to an arrest warrant from the court, on the allegation that he unlawfully entered the home of another family and stole several items including a big fine mat, clothes, power tools and a laptop, is now charged with unlawful possession of drugs.
The government has filed two separate criminal cases against Loleni Talalelei, a.k.a Lorenze Talalelei, who is not new to the court system and made his initial appearance in District Court last week.
In the first case, Talalelei is charged with stealing and second degree burglary, both class C felonies, punishable by imprisonment of up to 7 years, a $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 a maximum of $20,000, or both such fine and imprisonment.
In the second case, he is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, and unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth) — both felonies. Bond is set at $15,000.
Talalelei’s attorney asked for reduced bail to $5,000 surety for both cases; which was rejected by the court.
Preliminary examination is Thursday, May 14th at 1p.m.
On Apr 28th, 2020, a woman reported to police that their Tafeta home was burglarized by an unknown person, and a lot of personal belongings were stolen. A week later, a woman who claimed to be Talalelei’s ex-girlfriend notified police that some of the stolen items were brought into their home by her male cousin, who alleged that the items were from Talalelei, the defendant.
Police spoke to the defendant’s ex-girlfriend who said that her 20-year-old cousin told her that Talalelei gave him the items to go and sell them to get money to buy drugs.
The defendant was apprehended by police at his uncle’s home in Taputimu and was transported to the TPS for investigation.
When questioned, the defendant allegedly admitted that he broke into the victim’s home and took a number of things on the night of Apr. 28th. He further stated that some of the items he stole were sold to a man at “Le Aute” in exchange for drugs while others were given away for free to some of his friends.
The defendant also confirmed to investigators that he gave some of the stolen items to his ex-girlfriend’s cousin to sell for cash to buy drugs.
Before Talalelei was taken into custody when arrested by police, a body search was conducted for weapons and illegal drugs. During the pat down, two clear baggies containing a white crystalline substance which later tested positive for meth were discovered inside the defendant’s rear pants pocket.
The defendant refused to speak to police regarding the drugs allegedly found in his possession.