Drug and alcohol involved cases continue to clog the American Samoa courts
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man who was released on bond awaiting the outcome of his matter in High Court where he’s charged with violating local drugs is now back in custody after he was arrested last week pursuant to a bench warrant from the court.
Rintel I’atala appeared before Associate Justice Fiti Sunia yesterday morning for his initial appearance. He is represented by Assistant Public Defender, Rob McNeill while Assistant Attorney General Kristie Soule is prosecuting.
According to the court, one of the conditions of release for I’atala was to make all of his court appearances. I’atala failed to appear in court last month for his pretrial conference. As a result, the court issued a bench warrant for his arrest. I’atala was served with a copy of the bench warrant at the District Court when he went to visit the Probation Office last week. He was immediately taken into custody to await his initial appearance yesterday morning.
The defense attorney informed the court that he’s also aware that there is a pending motion to revoke bond against his client before the court. He then asked to set a hearing date for this morning. However, the hearing was set for May 27.
Sunia stated that the reason why the court issued the bench warrant was that the court couldn’t find the defendant.
I’atala was remanded back into custody.
I’atala is charged with one count each of illegal possession of marijuana and illegal possession of methamphetamine, both felonies. Bail was set at $10,000.
The charges against I’atala stem from an incident when a police officer followed a truck driven by the defendant on Feb. 8, 2019 and he met up with him in the parking lot of a store in Lauli’i village.
The police officer had noticed that the sticker on the truck was not current. When asked for his driver’s license, I’atala told the police officer that he had forgotten his license at home and he didn’t have any money to renew his insurance and registration.
An inventory of the vehicle then was carried out, in I’atala’s presence and police discovered a large plastic ziplock bag which held a glass pipe commonly used to smoke methamphetamine with a useable amount of white crystalline substance inside. Also found were two stamp-sized plastic baggies containing a 'white crystalline substance' that appeared to be meth. In addition, a "neatly folded newspaper" with what appeared to be 'dried marijuana leaves' was found.
A 36-year-old man who is on probation for 12 months was arrested two weeks ago on the allegation that he assaulted his neighbor while he was intoxicated.
Alex Ioane made his initial appearance two weeks ago. He is charged with 3rd degree assault, trespass, resisting arrest, and public peace disturbance — all misdemeanors.
During his initial appearance, the court established Ioane’s bond at $1,000. If he posts bond, the court has ordered that he remain law abiding, not leave or attempt to leave the territory, and he has to surrender his travel documents to the government’s attorney. He was also ordered not to make any direct or indirect contact with all the government’s witnesses, including not setting foot at or near the victim and his family’s house.
Ioane is accused of unlawfully walking onto a neighbor’s land and allegedly assaulting his neighbor by punching him in the face multiple times while he (Ioane) was intoxicated. The victim’s daughter told police that this is not the first time Ioane has done this to her father.
According to the daughter, Ioane became upset when her father did not do what the defendant wanted him to do. The victim and his family are living on land belonging to Ioane’s uncle and his family.
Ioane prohibited the victim and his family from cultivating one area of the land; however, Ioane’s uncle who left the island while Ioane was in prison around December of last year instructed the victim’s family to use the land for their plantation.
Two weeks ago while Ioane was drinking beer behind his house, he allegedly saw the victim and his wife working on the land. He then waited until the victim went to his house before he walked over, forcibly entered the home, and allegedly assaulted the victim.
In September of last year, Ioane was convicted of 3rd degree assault and endangering the welfare of a clild, both class A misdemeanors. He was placed on probation for 12 months subject to conditions that he not consume any alcohol or possess any illegal drugs, and he is to attend and complete an alcohol counseling program.
He was also ordered to be law abiding and to keep the peace with his neighbor. The court ordered Sulu to serve a period of detention of 150 days and to pay a fine of $100.
Ioane is scheduled to appear in court on May 27 for his pretrial conference.