COURT REPORT: Stealing, drugs and COVID-19 enforcement
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The second person convicted by the court for failure to comply with the requirements set by the government during the Governor’s declaration for the COVID-19 enforcement was ordered to pay a fine of $500. However, the court deferred $450 and ordered the defendant, Fofoga Godinet to pay $50 on the same day she was sentenced.
Godinet, a female taxi driver appeared in District Court last week for her pretrial conference, however, when her case was called, her defense attorney, Bob Stuart informed the court that despite the fact that the defense is still waiting for discovery in the case, his client is ready to enter a guilty plea to the single charge against her of violating requirements set by the government during the Governor’s declaration for the COVID-19 enforcement, a class A misdemeanor under the Public Health Emergency Acts 13.0323, punishable by imprisonment terms of up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
With her guilty plea, Godinet admitted that she was operating a taxi outside of the 6a.m to 6p.m hours of operation when her taxi was stopped by police on Apr. 20th at about 6:17p.m.
The defense attorney argued that his client was taking her last passenger of the day and she didn’t want to abandon the passenger when she noticed that it was 6p.m. She was continuing to drive the passenger home when she was pulled over by police.
Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea sentenced Godinet to 6 months probation under conditions that she pay $50.
Since the COVID-19 enforcement kicked-off in March of this year, seven people have been arrested and charged for failure to comply with requirements set by the government.
Out of five arrested, one case was dismissed 3 weeks ago for lack of prosecution; two have been convicted by the court; and four are still pending in court, including a new case filed last week against another taxi driver.
A 23-year-old man Samoa accused of burglarizing a store in Nu’uuli is now facing drug charges after police allegedly discover drugs in his possession when he was taken into the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) for questioning.
The government stated that on May 12th, 2020 about 7:57p.m, DPS Vice and the Narcotics Unit was contacted about a matter at the TPS where Patrol Officers detained a male individual later identified as Aokuso Fale, the defendant in this case, for entering a store in Nu’uuli from the back door.
Officers also found in Fale’s possession, two glass pipes commonly used to smoke methamphetamine with a usable amount of white crystalline substance in both pipes.
According to one of the patrolling officer’s statement to detectives from the Vice and Narcotics, they were responding to a report of a burglary at the Lucky Dragon store in Nu’uuli when they encountered the defendant still inside the store.
The officer stated that a witness reported seeing the defendant trying to enter a house behind the store. When unsuccessful, the defendant then saw the store’s back door and entered without the owner’s permission. When the store owner saw the defendant entering from the back door he was terrified and informed the landlord about the incident.
The landlord immediately called police who responded and found the defendant still inside the store and immediately detained him and patted him down for weapons or any sharp objects. During the pat down officers found the two glass pipes containing white crystalline substance inside.
After being read his constitutional rights, the defendant agreed to make a statement and admitted to police that the drugs found in his possession belong to him. He said he smoked one glass pipe before he committed the alleged crime, however, the second glass pipes found on him was given to him by his friend.
The defendant further stated to investigators that he tried to enter the house for the purpose of stealing property to sell so that he could get money to buy meth for him and his friends, however, when he was unsuccessful with burglarizing the house, he then turned to the store by breaking the back door to gain entry.
While he was inside the store looking for money, he was alarmed when a man knocked on the window and waved at him to come out. A few moments later, a police unit pulled up at the side of the store.
The defendant apologized to investigators for what he did saying that his family kicked him out of the house and he’s looking for a place to stay.
The white crystalline substance was tested and it revealed positive results for methamphetamine. Evidence was also documented and photographed and later turned into the DPS evidence’s custodian.
Fale made his initial appearance in District Court last week.
He is 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.
Bail is set at $10,000.
During his initial appearance, Fale waived his right to a preliminary hearing and his case was bound over to High Court. He appeared last Friday for arraignment where he entered a not guilty plea to the charges
Pretrial conference is July 12th.
A man was arrested by police last week on the allegation that he stole food items from a store in Fagaima. When asked by police, Sio Etevise said that he stole food from the store because he was hungry and didn’t have money to buy food because he’s unemployed.
Etevise, 25, made his initial appearance in court last week. He is charged with one count of stealing, a class A misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment of up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
Etevise was released on his own recognizance subject to conditions that he remain law abiding and not to set foot or to go near the location of the store where the alleged crime took place.
It was the owner of the store who contacted police for assistance after he reviewed the images on his store’s security camera and noticed that a man stole several canned food items from his store two days before he reviewed the images.
Surveillance footage from the store revealed that Etevise entered the store on May 23rd, 2020 about 5:39p.m and went to the back shelves. A few minutes later, Etevise came to the front counter and paid for his shopping. He did not pay for the food items he had hidden inside his pants.
Etevise was apprehended by police two days after the alleged incident and was transported to the Tafuna Police Substation for further investigation. When questioned by police, Etevise admitted to his action and immediately apologized for what he did.
He told police that he was hungry after consuming 3 large beers, so he then went inside the store and stole canned food to eat. He further told police he didn’t have money to buy food because he’s unemployed.
Pretrial conference is set for June 30th.