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COURT REPORT: Drivers arrested for non compliance with COVID-19 enforcement

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Two bus drivers were arrested last week on allegations that they were not in compliance with the COVID-19 enforcement, which allows only 10 passengers at a time per bus

Ene Asovale and Saumani Semi made their initial appearances before Judge Elvis P. Patea last Friday. Asovale and Semi are each charged with one count or non compliance with traffic laws, a class B misdemeanor which carries a jail sentence of 6 months, a fine of up to $500 or both.

Asovale and Semi entered not guilty pleas to the single charge against them and their next court hearing is now set for Apr. 24th at 8:30a.m.

Both defendants were released on their own recognizance subject to several conditions such as; they must comply with all traffic laws of the territory, be law abiding at all time and make all of their court appearances.

The government claims that two weeks ago before this incident, Asovale and Semi were among the many bus drivers that were informed by police officers not to carry more than 10 passengers on each trip.

Last week, police discovered that Asovale and Semi were continuing to ignore the announcement by carrying more than 10 passengers on each of their buses. They were then arrested and charged.

(Samoa News should point out that the governor in explaining the 10-passenger limit for buses during last Friday’s cabinet meeting, he said or half of the passenger capacity of the bus — meaning if twelve bench seats, then 12 passengers are allowed.)


The case of a man accused of beating his wife to death during a domestic violence incident last month was bound over to the High Court after the defendant waived his constitutional rights to a preliminary hearing in District Court.

Amosa Lautaimi, a Samoa citizen who holds a P1 status made his initial appearance before Associate Justice Fiti Sunia last Friday where he entered a not guilty plea to all the charges against him.

Lautaimi is charged with first degree murder, a crime that carries a term of life imprisonment; one count of attempted arson, a class D felony, along with three misdemeanor charges of 3rd degree assault and 2 counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Lautaimi’s pretrial conference is now set for June of this year.

Aside from the defendant’s PX hearing before Judge Elvis P. Patea last week, an Order to Show Cause (OSC) was also called by the court on the allegation that Lautaimi failed to comply with conditions of his probation from last year.

According to the court record, Lautaimi was sentenced by Judge Patea on Dec. 23, 2019 after being convicted of disturbing the peace inside his home involving domestic violence actions.

When the case was called, Lautaimi’s defense attorney, Bob Stuart asked the court to set a proper hearing for his client. He further stated that the new charges against his client are just allegations, and Lautaimi is innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

Lautaimi’s hearing on the probation violation allegation is set for next week.


A man was arrested at District Court two weeks ago when he turned up for an immigration clearance and the Court Clerk discovered that he had an outstanding bench warrant from 2018 for failure to appear in court for sentencing.

Philip Apineru, 34, was placed under arrest and appeared before Judge Elvis P. Patea for a speedy hearing the same morning. When asked why he failed to appear in court for his sentencing on Nov. 18, 2018, Apineru stated that he forgot about this hearing. He further stated to the court that he thought his case was over because his defense attorney never contacted him after his last hearing in court.

He has been remanded to custody without bond until his next hearing on Apr. 24th.

According to court records, Apineru was arrested in May 2018 and charged with third degree assault, stealing and disturbing the public peace (PPD), all class A misdemeanors. In October 2018, he pled guilty to PPD under a plea agreement with the government. In return, the third degree assault charge was dismissed.

Apineru admits that on the day in question, he assaulted a man during a drinking session and yelled cuss words, thus committing PPD. After he assaulted the victim, he then took off with the victim’s wallet containing $209 cash.

He was to be sentenced Nov. 18, 2018; however, he was a ‘no-show’. Sentencing was then rescheduled and again, Apineru failed to appear. That’s when a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.


A 30-year-old man convicted of stealing a computer, a box of jewelry, one gold ring, a camera and a cellphone from an Asian store in Nuuuli has been given another chance by the court.

Alatasi Oloapu appeared in court last week for sentencing. He was initially charged with second-degree robbery and stealing; both felonies, along with a third count of property damage, a class A misdemeanor.

But under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, Oloapu pled guilty to stealing, a class C felony, punishable by up to 7 years in jail, 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 the crime, up to a maximum of $20,000, or both the fine and imprisonment for each count.

Oloapu admits that he stole several items from an Asian store in Nuuuli on the night of Nov. 12, 2018.

When given the chance to speak, Oloapu, who has been in custody since his arrest last year, apologized and begged for another chance so he can return home and care for his parents. He also apologized to the victim and promised that he would pay back the money for the items he stole from the store.

When asked about the items he stole, Oloapu told the court that he sold all of the items to another man in exchange for drugs and alcohol for him and his friends.

Defense attorney Rob McNeill asked the court to sentence his client to probation, without any additional period of detention. He said Oloapu is truly remorseful and has learned his lesson. Prosecutor Doug Lowe echoed the defense submission, saying the government believes Oloapu is remorseful.

Oloapu was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment. Execution of sentence is suspended and he is placed on probation for 7 years, subject to certain conditions. He is to serve 28 months at the TCF; however, he will only have to serve 17 months, the remaining 11 months will be stayed, based on good behavior.

According to court records, Oloapu has already served 16 months at the TCF. Upon released from confinement, Oloapu is ordered to remain law abiding and find a job to pay his restitutions of $1,219.

The court also advised OIoapu that this is his second conviction and if he appears in court next time for any offense, the will be no more chances for him.


In 2012, Oloapu was sentenced to 5 years probation under the condition that he serve 20 months at the TCF, after being convicted of unlawful possession of marijuana. Oloapu’s probation expired in 2017.

Oloapu and another man were arrested by police for disturbing the public peace at the Utulei Beach during a weekend party with some of his friends. During a body search, police discovered two small baggies containing methamphetamine inside Oloapu’s right pocket.

One year later, he was arrested for robbery and stealing.