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Drug defendant ordered to leave the territory

[SN file photo]

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man, who was convicted in 2013 for unlawful drug possession, has been ordered to depart American Samoa and return to his home country for the duration of his 15-year probation sentence.

Filisi Setefano appeared in High Court last week for a probation violation hearing where the head of the Probation Office testified that among the conditions of probation, Setefano was to find a job.

When he was sentenced in August 2013, Setefano was to serve 60 months in jail but after serving 34 months, the defendant sought release so he could find a permanent job to care for his family.

In May 2016, the court decided to release Setefano from jail under the condition that he find a permanent job. He found employment at a local bakery and was able to get a paycheck, according to information revealed in court. However, he was taken into custody under order from the Immigration Office after his immigration ID expired.

Court information states that twice, Setefano submitted requests to the Immigration Board to renew his immigration papers so he could remain in American Samoa, but both times, the board rejected it.

And, now that Setefano is no longer permanently employed, the Probation Office has filed a motion in High Court to revoke his probation.

Setefano’s attorney, Public Defender Douglas Fiaui asked the court to give the defendant two weeks so his client can work on renewing his immigration papers.

The court rejected the request.

Acting Associate Justice Elvis Patea said the court has no authority to keep a foreigner in American Samoa when that person’s immigration papers are not in order; only the Immigration Office has this authority.

It was revealed during the hearing that Setefano has two children who were born in American Samoa and are still in the territory, although his wife is currently living in Alaska.

In the end, the court amended Setefano's probation and he was ordered to depart the territory and remain outside of its borders for the 15-year probation sentence that was handed down in 2013.

Until he departs, Setefano will remain in custody at the TCF.