Court Report — Cases heard recently in both High Court and District Court
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Sentencing for Faresi Pa’au in High Court is set for next month. He has already pled guilty, under a plea agreement, to felony stealing.
Paau was initially charged with first-degree robbery; but under the plea agreement, read in court during a change of plea hearing, and accepted by the court, the government amended the robbery charge down to felony stealing.
Paau admits that sometime during the evening hours of July 13, 2020, he and co-defendant Lupe Tagaloa went to a Malaeimi store with the intent of robbing it. According to the plea agreement, the pair took $560 cash, with Tagaloa threatening the cashier with a knife while Pa’au took off with the cash register containing the cash.
Provisions of the plea agreement require Pa’au to cooperate with the government and provide truthful testimony against Tagaloa, who is not only charged with the Malaeimi store robbery, but is accused of breaking into 5 other stores.
Felony stealing is punishable by not more than 7 years imprisonment, a fine of not more than $5,000 or both. For now, Paau remains in custody. Meanwhile, the case against Tagaloa is pending in High Court, with a pretrial conference hearing set for November of this year.
The Court says Sua Lemi needs to find a way to address his alcohol problem, as it’s clear from court records that Lemi has been in and out of court since 2013 for cases stemming from alcohol use.
Lemi, 42, was taken into custody two weeks ago after family members contacted police because he was intoxicated, causing trouble, and swearing at neighbors and others.
He also assaulted a man who tried to calm him down by punching him in the face twice and then throwing an empty beer bottle at him. A neighbor told police that he got into an argument with Lemi, “who was drunk” and started swearing, according to court information. Lemi said he was not afraid of beating anyone up.
En route to the police station, cops detected a “strong odor” of alcohol on Lemi’s breath and clothes. He had to be helped into the police station because he could barely stand, let alone walk. He was released on his own recognizance (OR) after he appeared in court this week for his initial appearance.
Lemi is charged with third degree assault, public peace disturbance, and trespass — all misdemeanors. Pretrial conference is Nov. 12th. Conditions of release include not making any contact with the government’s witnesses, including the victim and his family.
The High Court is taking under advisement a motion from the government to revoke bail for Kamu Solomona.
On Feb. 20th, Solomona was re-arrested and charged in District Court with two misdemeanors: public peace disturbance and third degree assault. He was arrested after he allegedly assaulted his neighbor with a hammer; and was heavily intoxicated when police picked him up at home.
The government’s attorney asked the court to revoke and forfeit Solomona’s bond.
Defense attorney said the allegation is based on what is on a piece of paper, not solid evidence like someone being sworn-in to tell the court what happened — and there isn't sufficient evidence from the government to prove its motion, and for that reason, it must be denied. Prosecutor argued that the government has a copy of the new complaint against Solomona, to support its motion.
Solomona, who is out on a $10,000 surety bond, has been ordered to comply with conditions of his release, especially the one requiring him to be law-abiding.
His next hearing is scheduled for next month.
A 30-year-old man who was convicted of stealing, and later selling a tool box containing tools belonging to a mechanic, has been ordered to pay a $1,000 fine as a condition of his 7-year probation sentence.
Kereti Tala was convicted of stealing, a felony punishable by 7 years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
During sentencing, Tala apologized to the court and asked for a second chance to return home to his family. He also apologized to the company that was affected by his actions and promised never to do it again.
The government’s attorney said Tala stole the toolbox and then sold it to a third party who has since returned it to the rightful owner, and Tala has already paid back to the third party the money he received from the sale of the toolbox.
The Court said the court normally goes straight to sentencing after a 'change of plea' within a month; but in this case, the one-year period during which the case has been stalled, has been to Tala's advantage because it has given the court the opportunity to see his behavior in public, and he has done well, which tells the court he is someone who'll do well on probation.
Tala was sentenced to 7 years probation, under the condition that he serve 28 months in jail. He was credited for the 193 days he has already served, and the balance is stayed, as long as he complies with all conditions of probation.
He is also to pay a $1,000 fine within 6 months, and he is not to make contact with the company that was affected by his actions.
A 45-year-old man accused of stealing checks from a businessman and forging his signature has pled guilty.
Afa Lago is charged in two separate cases.
In the first case, he is charged with stealing and fraud, both felonies. For the second case, he is charged with stealing, resisting arrest, third degree assault, and trespassing.
Under a plea agreement, Lago pled guilty to forgery, a class C felony; and resisting arrest, a class D felony. The remaining charges were dismissed.
Lago admits that on or about May 28th, 2020, he signed a check from a store in Tafuna without the owner’s permission. He further admits that he forged the signature of the store owner on the check, and pretended he was the owner.
For resisting arrest, Lago admits that on the May. 30th, he ran away from police when they stopped by his mechanic shop to arrest him. The court accepted Lago’s guilty pleas and he is remanded back to custody to await sentencing scheduled for next month.
A 26-year-old man who is on probation was sentenced to 135 days at the TCF for resisting arrest.
According to court records, IakopoTala put up a struggle when officers tried to handcuff him. He appeared in court last week for sentencing.
When given the chance to speak, Tala apologized and asked for a second chance to return home and care for his elderly mother. He said he’s truly remorseful and he will not appear in court again.
Attorneys from both sides recommended probation under the condition that Tala is sentenced to time served, which is 135 days. The court accepted the recommendation.
Tala is still in custody however, pursuant to an OSC (Order to Show Cause) from the High Court, for failing to comply with conditions of his 5-year probation, which was handed down earlier this year after he was convicted of unlawful possession of meth.
A 23-year-old man from Petesa accused of burglarizing a store in Tafuna and taking off with several items has admitted to the allegations against him.
Folau Vailoa, who has been in custody since his arrest, unable to post a $10,000 surety bond appeared in High Court last week for a Change of Plea hearing.
Vailoa was initially charged with stealing and first-degree burglary, both class C felonies, punishable by imprisonment of up to 7 years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. But under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, Vailoa pled guilty to the amended count of conspiracy to commit stealing, a class D felony, punishable by a jail term of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Vailoa admits that on June 12, 2020 he unlawfully entered a store in Tafuna with two co-defendants, and while in the store, they stole two cartons of cigarettes; 2 cases of corned beef; a case of beer and other items, along with a small bottle containing coins totaling $425.
According to terms of the plea agreement, Vailoa assisted his two co-defendants by helping them steal the items and then used his truck to transport the stolen goods to his home, where he later sold the cartons of cigarettes to another man for $100. As part of the plea agreement, the government is recommending to the court to order Vailoa to pay $641 restitution. Vailoa is remanded back to custody. He will be sentenced next month.
A 40-year-old male accused of disturbing the peace in Fagaima made his initial appearance in District Court last week, where he entered a ‘not guilty’ plea to the charges against him.
Thomas Logomai is charged with third degree assault, third degree property damage, resisting arrest. and public peace disturbance — all class A misdemeanors.
Defense attorney asked the court to release his client on his own recognizance, saying he is a first time offender and the allegations against him are not serious. The prosecutor did not oppose and the court granted the motion.
Logomai was released under certain conditions that include him remaining alcohol and drug free, including not going back to the store at any time.
The government claims that on Jan. 19th, cops apprehended an individual later identified as Logomai, for disturbing the peace in the parking lot of a store in Fagaima.
Officers working on the west side said they were at the store parking lot when they heard someone shouting profanity, both in Samoan and English. Cops approached the crowd and observed Logomai not only yelling profanities, but also challenging people to a fight.
According to the 50-year-old male victim, he was shocked when a male who appeared highly intoxicated entered the store and punched him in the face while he was standing in front of the cashier. He said he exited the store but the man continued to follow him outside. The man then threw a beer can at him, which missed his head but hit and cracked his vehicle’s rear window.
During the booking process, police could smell a strong odor of alcohol on Logomai’s breath and his eyes were bloodshot red. Pretrial conference is next month.
A man who violated conditions of his 5-year probation sentence that was handed down last year has been ordered to serve out his suspended sentence, which is 20 months.
Alex Aso appeared in court last week for a disposition hearing. When given the chance to speak, he apologized and begged for another chance so he can return home and start anew. He told the court that he has an alcohol and anger problem, and he needs time to address those issues.
Defense attorney asked the court to modify Aso’s probation, instead of revoking it. He said Aso is truly remorseful and he wants to go home to care for his family.
Prosecutor Laura Garvey argued for probation revocation, saying Aso should be ordered to serve out his suspended sentence (20 months) because he disobeyed the court’s order, and this is the only way for him to learn a lesson. The court agreed.
Aso appeared in court last month for a preliminary hearing on the allegation that he failed to comply with the probation condition requiring him to be law abiding. He was placed on probation last year, following an August 2020 conviction on unlawful discharge of a firearm and resisting arrest.
As a condition of his 5-year probation, Aso served 4 months at the TCF. A few months after he was sentenced, he assaulted a man and as a result, was convicted in District Court of third degree assault. He also pled “no contest” to careless driving in another case. He was sentenced to 190 days at the TCF.