Ads by Google Ads by Google

Court tells mechanic to straighten up and act right — Get a job… stop smoking ‘ice’

American Samoa High Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man convicted of violating local drug laws is going to jail. The court sentenced Faalata Toetasi to serve 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF), as a condition of the 5 years probated sentence.

Toetasi appeared in High Court last week for sentencing.

Toetasi was initially charged with one court of unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth), a felony punishable by not less than 5 years and not more than 10 years imprisonment, or a fine of not less than $5,000 and not more than $20,000.

However, under a plea agreement with the government, which was accepted by the Court two months ago, the defendant pled guilty to the amended lesser felony charge of unlawful drug possession.

With his guilty plea, the defendant admits that on Oct. 19, 2020 he possessed two glass pipes containing meth, and a stamp sized baggie containing meth residue.

According to terms of the plea agreement, Toetasi was a passenger in a vehicle when police pulled it over during a traffic stop for displaying the wrong license plate. The driver of the vehicle was later identified by police as Apelu Fatu, who is a co-defendant in this matter.

Both men were searched, with Toetasi found with two glass pipes containing meth inside his pant’s pocket. Nothing was found in the vehicle when searched.

When given the chance to address the court, Toetasi apologized for his action and asked the court for another chance to go back home to care for his family. He told the court that he’s truly remorseful for his action and he will never violate the local drug laws in the future. He asked the court to grant him another chance so that he can change his life and seek gainful employment to pay his fine.

Toetasi’s defense attorney asked the court to adopt the recommendation by the Pre Sentence Report (PSR) and sentence his client to probation without serving any addition imprisonment. He also stated that while his client has a prior conviction, it was in District Court over ten years ago.

Moreover, the defense attorney told the court that his client has a drug problem and there is a need to address his problem so that he can get away from it. He said Toetasi would continue being addicted to drugs if nothing is done to address the problem.

The only way to address Toetasi’s drug addiction, according to the defense attorney, is to give him a second chance and allow him to attend a substance abuse counseling program, which will give him the chance to regroup and move forward with his life.

The prosecutor agreed with the defense attorney’s submission and asked the court to adopt the PSR recommendation and sentence the defendant to probation.

The court asked the prosecutor what the government really wants to do to address the defendant’s drug problem. Moreover, he also wanted to know whether the government can provide any counseling programs to address his problem.

The government’s attorney told the court that there are counseling programs available with the Department of Human & Social Service (DHSS) which can help overcome the defendant’s drug problem.

Moreover, the government’s attorney told the court that the 10 and a half months Toetasi has already served in the TCF is good enough for his period of detention in this matter.

The court stated that drug offenders appearing before the court are not something new, especially drivers who police officers detain during traffic stops and later discover drugs inside their vehicle or in their possession.

Despite the arguments from both attorneys that the quantity of drugs found in the defendant’s possession was small, the court pointed out that according to the statute that was passed by the Legislature, a person convicted of unlawful possession of illegal drugs of any quantity can be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 5 years and not more than 10 years.

“Regardless of how much is found in the defendant’s possession, unlawful possession of illegal drugs is a very serious offense in American Samoa,” the court pointed out.

The court also noted that the court was struck by the PSR, which stated that this defendant has special skills that are really needed in American Samoa. According to the court, the defendant is a certified mechanic who can earn good money.

Toetasi was sentenced to five years in jail and ordered to pay a $2,000 fine; however, the execution of the sentence was suspended and the defendant was placed on five years probation with the condition that he serves 20 months at the TCF, does not possess any illegal drugs or consume any alcohol and he is subject to random drugs and alcohol testing.

The court ordered that the defendant only serve 5 months of his period of detention, since he has already served 10 months while awaiting resolution of this case. The remaining 5 months were stayed until further orders of the court.

He is also banned from entering any bars, taverns or businesses that sell alcohol, and he is not to congregate with people who are dealing illegal drugs or consuming alcohol.

The court told the defendant that he needs to stop doing mechanic work at home and instead find a job where he can get paid.

The court’s last message to the defendant was, “If you choose to continue smoking ice, it’s up to you, but we will make sure you will serve the suspended period of your sentence of 5 years. However, if you choose to abide with these orders, we may choose to reduce the period of your probation. So, the choice is now yours.”