Defense witnesses say Lefatia couldn't have orchestrated the high speed chase — because he was at home playing pool with them
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — While all of the government's witnesses have testified that the driver of the red truck that took police on a high speed chase in late Dec. 2017 was Manu Lefatia, two defense witnesses told jurors that they played pool with Lefatia at his residence in Puapua from 5 pm Dec. 23, 2017 until 4:30am Dec. 24, 2017 — when the chase is said to have happened.
The government called its last 2 witnesses before it rested Wednesday afternoon.
DPS Officer Satia Leulu told jurors that it was Lefatia who drove the red truck on the night of the alleged car chase. He said he stood in front of the vehicle, faced the driver, and easily recognized him as Manu.
Leulu testified that as he and other officers tried to approach the vehicle while it was parked in front of a store in Ottoville, it was clear from his view that Manu was the driver.
In cross-examination, defense counsel Marcellus Talaimalo Uiagalelei asked Leulu if Manu has any siblings. Leulu replied yes, Manu has a younger brother: Faafetai Lefatia.
When Uiagalelei asked Leulu to describe Faafetai Lefatia, Leulu answered, “He looks the same as Manu.”
The defense called 3 witnesses, including two males who claim they hung out with Lefatia on the morning of the alleged incident. The other witness was a detective who was called to clarify a part of his testimony from the first day of trial.
Manono Faumui, a.k.a Koo told jurors that he was hanging out with Lefatia in Puapua on the morning of Dec. 24, 2017. He said he arrived around 5 pm on Dec. 23, 2017 and he, along with other males including Lefatia and Sione played pool until 4:30 am, Dec. 24.
Faumui, 40, told jurors that Lefatia never left; as a matter of fact, he said, the only time Lefatia was gone (about 10-15 minutes) was when he went to check on his children who were sleeping.
When asked if he recalls seeing a mini red SUV parked at Lefatia's residence that night, Faumui said no. He also mentioned that police never contacted him about this case.
Sione Lagoia, on the witness stand, echoed Faumui's story. He said he arrived to play pool at around 7 pm on Dec. 23 and he didn't leave until the next morning, Dec. 24 at around 7 am and Lefatia was there the whole time, leaving only for a few minutes to check on his sleeping children.
He, too, said police never contacted him regarding this case.
Uiagalelei asked DPS Det. Tagata if police had any information linking his client to the red vehicle that was allegedly involved in the high speed chase.
Det. Tagata said all the information in his report was from the officers who were involved in chasing the red mini SUV, allegedly driven by Lefatia.
He said the vehicle was a rental car belonging to Tradewinds Hotel and in order for someone to get a rental car from the hotel; the person has to rent a room.
“Who rented the car?” Uiagalelei asked. Det. Tagata said the paper he received from the Hotel had 4 names — 2 females and 2 males, and among the names was Faafetai Lefatia, the younger brother of Manu Lefatia.
“Do you know if my client rented that red vehicle?” Uiagalelei asked.
Tagata said no.
When asked if he followed up on the 4 people named, to see who was driving the vehicle on the day in question, Tagata said he didn't get any information from the 4 people, and, as far as he can remember, a female rented the vehicle.
The case is now in the hands of the jury, who were given final instructions by Chief Justice Michael Kruse.