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Drug case stemming from a traffic stop in Nuuuli is bound over to High Court

American Samoa High Court building
Gov’t witness says the quantity of drugs found point to distribution, not personal use

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — District Court Judge Pro Tem Gwen Tauiliili-Langkilde has found probable cause to bind over to High Court, the government’s case against Tony Vaifanua, who is expected to enter a ‘not guilty’ plea this morning at arraignment.

Vaifanua, who is still in custody, unable to post a $30,000 surety bond, is charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine; one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute; one count of unlawful possess of marijuana; and one count of unlawful possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute - all felonies.

During the preliminary examination last Friday, the government’s only witness, Lt. Det. Ioane Paselio testified that drugs were found in a vehicle during a traffic stop in Nuuuli last week. He explained that on the night of Jan. 17th, police pulled over a vehicle in Nuuuli for speeding. Inside the vehicle were three males.

The driver was identified as defendant Tony Vaifanua and the two passengers were male juveniles. All three were instructed to step out of the vehicle and according to Paselio, Vaifanua became disorderly and refused to comply with instructions when cops were trying to carry out a body search and when he was asked to take a Standardized Field Sobriety test.

Upon patting him down, police found on Vaifanua a sandwich sized baggie full of a green leafy substance. An inventory of the vehicle netted a white container under the driver’s seat with several medium sized baggies, one of which contained small stamp-sized baggies with a green leafy substance. Several small baggies with a white crystalline substance were also found.

In the driver’s side door was a small baggie containing a white crystalline substance, and several empty baggies were found in a plastic container while other empty baggies were discovered on the floor under the passenger’s seat.

Cops also found a bag belonging to the juvenile who was riding in the back seat of the vehicle. In the bag was a photo ID and a glass pipe containing a huge amount of a white crystalline substance. Both juveniles were patted down and nothing was found on them.

Paselio testified that Vaifanua and one juvenile were taken into custody for questioning while the minor who was sitting in the passenger seat was released at the scene.

During questioning, Vaifanua refused to talk. He was then booked and transferred to the TCF. The juvenile  - who was interviewed in the presence of his mother - also refused to talk. His mother told police she needs to speak to a lawyer. The juvenile was subsequently released to his mother’s custody.

The white crystalline substance and the green leafy substance allegedly discovered on the suspect and in the vehicle tested positive for meth and marijuana, respectively.

Based on his training and experience, Paselio testified that the drugs found in Vaifanua’s possession and in the vehicle were not for personal use, but for sale.

During cross examination, defense attorney Bob Stuart asked Paselio how he determined that the meth and marijuana allegedly found on his client were intended for sale. Paselio said two baggies of methamphetamine and two marijuana joints are considered personal use amounts. Anything more than that will be considered as distribution.

Stuart argued that the drugs allegedly found on his client and in his vehicle were not for distribution, but for personal use. The court disagreed.

Tauiliili-Langkilde said the court is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to bind the case against the defendant to High Court for further proceedings.