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DOE employee faces three felony drug charges involving meth

[SN file photo]

The suspect from DPS’s latest drug case at the Pago Pago International Airport this week, made his initial appearance in the District Court yesterday morning, before Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea. Ryan Anderson of the Public Defenders office is representing him, while prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Christy Dunn.

Sonny Tui, a full-time employee at the American Samoa Department of Education, entered the District Court room with both of his hands cuffed. He is being charged with three felonies counts, including unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; crystal methamphetamine, unlawful possession of a control substance with the intent to distribute, and authorizing illegal drugs to enter American Samoa.

During his initial appearance his attorney Anderson asked the Court to set a date for a preliminary examination for his client. Patea accepted the motion and set the PX date for the defendant for Monday next week, Dec. 18 at 8:30 a.m. The Court has already set the defendant’s bail in the amount of $40,000.

In his motion to reduce the bail amount to $20,000 for Tui, counsel Anderson told the Court that his client is a full-time ASG employee, who has been working for DOE for many years now, and also has some medical conditions.

According to Anderson, his client is a family man, who has strong ties to the community and is not a flight risk. He is not a danger to society and has no intention of leaving his family and all of his property here in American Samoa.

The government’s attorney on the other hand opposed the defense motion for reduction of bail. Dunn asked the Court to consider the huge amount of illegal drugs police allegedly found in the defendant’s possession, and also its street value. She told the Court that the government believes that the defendant is a flight risk and he has a family on the mainland.

She also claimed that according to new information the government has received, the defendant lived in the mainland for many years and he has travelled back to the mainland several times. The government feels that the bail amount the Court has already set was the appropriate amount for the defendant’s case.

Patea denied the defense’s motion for a bail reduction. He said that based on the 3 felonies charges with which the defendant has been charged, the Court feels the bond was a reasonable amount.

According to the government’s case, a package that was addressed to the defendant arrived on the weekly cargo flight last week Friday afternoon. During a normal check by Custom agents at the Pago Pago International Airport, the K-9 alerted Customs agents about the package, and the package was then marked and placed in a certain area to await pick up of the package.

On Monday morning, the defendant went to the airport to uplift his package, and was informed by Custom agents that they needed to check the package as they normally do. Before the package was opened, Custom agents asked several questions about the package, including what was inside the package. The defendant told Custom agents that the package contained a gift for his wife for Christmas.

When the package was opened, Custom agents allegedly found inside more than 7 ounces of crystal methamphetamine, which was hidden in a speaker. DPS Vice & Narcotics units were contacted, and two of their detectives were assigned to investigate the case.

Before police interviewed him, the defendant was informed of his constitutional rights, and he informed police that he understood his rights and refused to make a statement. He was detained at the Territorial Correctional Facility for 48-hours to await charges to be filed by the government.

If he can post bond, the Court has ordered the defendant to surrender his travel documents to the government, and he is not allowed to leave the territory without an order from the Court while his case is pending.

Tui is also not allowed to talk to any of the government witnesses, including the agents and the officers who interviewed him at the beginning of his case. He is also to abide with all laws of the territory at all times.