COURT REPORT: Court hears assault charges — both with alcohol involved
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 29-year-old man from Tafuna accused of using a sharp object to assault another man during a drinking session has been arrested and charged with second degree assault, a felony, punishable by not more than 5 years imprisonment, and/or a fine of not more than $5,000 or both; and two misdemeanor charges, unlawful use of a weapon and public peace disturbance.
The charges against Pelema Ili stem from an incident that occurred two weeks ago in Tafuna, where he allegedly used a sharp piece of metal from his mechanic shop to assault and severely injure another man for allegedly stealing tools and spare parts from his shop two months ago.
According to the police report, Ili and the victim got into a disagreement during a drinking session outside of Ili’s mechanic shop regarding his tools that the victim allegedly stole from inside his shop. In the middle of the verbal disagreement, the victim allegedly assaulted Ili by punching him in the face causing Ili to fall.
The victim then walked back to his car that was parked a few feet away from the area where the alleged assault took place.
However, when Ili stood up, he grabbed a sharp metal pipe that was lying beside him and followed the victim. Ili allegedly struck the victim’s head from behind causing an open cut on the left side of the victim’s head. The victim ran for help while Ili followed him in an attempt to strike him again, however, two bystanders who saw the incident jumped in and stopped Ili.
The two bystanders also assisted the victim and immediately called police for assistance.
Ili made his initial appearance in the District Court last week, where he waived his right to a preliminary examination hearing.
His next court appearance is tomorrow at 9 a.m. in High Court, where he is expected to enter a not guilty plea to the charges.
Ili’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender, Bob Stuart, asked the court for a reduction in bail — from $5,000 to $1,500. Stuart told the court that Ili is a hard working man, and he is the only member of his family who works to provide for his wife and two children. Stuart said his client is not a flight risk; and he has no intention of leaving his family.
The prosecutor opposed the defense’s motion, saying the bail set by the court is the right amount for the offense the defendant is accused of committing.
The defense motion was denied and bail remains at $5,000; and because he is unable to post bond, Ili remains in custody at the TCF.
Kalasa Utuone, who pled guilty to third degree assault last week — a charge amended from assault in the second degree — was sentenced to time served, which was 56 days.
During the plea agreement hearing, upon questioning by the court, the defendant admitted pulling a knife on the victim. He further admitted that he punched the victim in the face and kicked his back twice.
However, the defendant also told the court that it was the victim who first assaulted him by striking his head with an empty beer bottle causing a cut on the left side of his head. He was shocked to learn that police did not arrest nor charge the victim for his role in the incident.
The court asked the defendant if he agrees that it’s unfair that he was the only one charged in the altercation, and if the complaining witness should have also been charged, and the defendant replied “yes”.
According to the government’s case, police received a report by the complaining witness that the defendant had stabbed him in the hand, while accusing him of stealing items from his house. The government claimed that the victim also admitted to police that it was he who started the incident.
Court documents state that the Emergency Medical Services treated the injuries the victim sustained from the attack, and it’s alleged the injuries were not serious.
Police confiscated the knife from the defendant’s residence, and it was turned into the police evidence room.
The court ordered Utuone not to go near the victim’s house and if he encounters him in public, he must walk away from him peacefully, as a condition of his 12 months probation. The court ordered Utuone to serve 60 days at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF), credited for the 56 days he already served. The balance of detention is stayed until further order of the court.
The court also ordered Utuone to pay $100, attend counseling and stay away from alcohol and illegal drugs.