Drug epidemic in Am. Samoa enslaving people from all walks of life
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Cases of men violating local drug laws continue to pack the court docket and are notably from different walks of life.
A man convicted of violating local drug laws was sentenced to 5 years probation.
Neemia Taulaga, who has been in custody since his arrest last year appeared in High Court last month for sentencing.
Taulaga was initially charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine (meth), a felony. But under a plea agreement, accepted by the government in January of this year, Taulaga pled guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful possession of meth, a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
With his guilty plea, Taulaga admits that in October of 2020, he possessed a glass pipe containing meth when police searched him during a public peace disturbance incident.
When given the chance to address the court, Taulaga apologized and begged for a second chance to return home to care for his wife and children.
The defense attorney told the court that his client is a family man who worked very hard to provide for his wife and children. However, he lost his job when he was arrested in this matter. The attorney then asked the court to sentence Taulaga to a probated sentence to allow him to go back home and seek gainful employment to provide for his family.
He further told the court that his client was caught with a small amount of meth in his possession.
The prosecutor echoed the defense’s statement for a probated sentence, saying that the government believes the defendant is truly remorseful for his crime and he is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence.
She also told the court that the defendant has already served 15 months in jail, while awaiting the outcome of his case.
The court wanted to know if the defendant’s Immigration status is still valid, and who is the defendant’s sponsor. According to the defendant’s attorney, his Immigration status is still current and his wife is his sponsor.
The court stated that there were many other defendants like Taulaga who come before the court for unlawful possession of illegal drugs. However, the court feels that Taulaga’s case is different from all other cases because he was living a useful life until he was arrested in this case.
“Your actions caused you your good family and your job,” the court told Taulaga. “You need to put a stop to this behavior before it gets worse and you will not want to see the bad outcome and the consequences of your actions.”
Taulaga was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and a $2,000 fine. Execution of sentence was suspended and Taulaga was placed on probation for the period of 5 years subject to several conditions.
He must serve a period of detention of 20 months without release, and was credited for the 15 months he served during his pretrial detention. All but 5 months will be stayed until further order of the court, and the defendant is ordered to serve 15 months of his detention — which is the time he already served during his pretrial detention.
Upon release from custody, the court ordered Taulaga to remain law abiding and remain clean from alcohol and illegal drugs.
Taulaga was told that this particular panel of judges wants to invest in people’s lives. They believe that you’re one (who can learn from this) “but once you fail we can change our minds.”
A 29-year-old fisherman convicted of violating local drug laws promised the court that he will never come back to court for any offense in the future.
Alatina Saufale, who has been in custody since his arrest in September of last year, unable to post his $10,000 surety bond, appeared in Court this week for sentencing.
Saufale was initially charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth), an unclassified felony, punishable by imprisonment from 5 to 10 years, a fine of up to $20,000, or both; along with two counts of 1st degree burglary and two counts of attempted stealing, all class C felonies, punishable by imprisonment of up to 7 years, a fine of up to $5,000 fine or pursuant to A.S.C.A 46.2101, a fine equal to twice the amount of gain from the commission of said crime, up to maximum of $20,000, or both such fine and imprisonment for each count.
Under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court in September of last year, Saufale pled guilty to the amended charge of unlawful possession of meth. The remaining charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Saufale admits that he unlawfully entered a store in Nuuuli on the night of September 12, 2020 for the purpose of committing a crime, however, when he was apprehended, cops found two glass pipes containing meth in his pocket.
When given the chance to address the court, Saufale apologized for his action and requested a second chance. He told the court that he wanted to go back to fishing, to earn money for his elderly mother.
Attorneys from both side asked the court for a probated sentence.
The defense attorney told the court that his client is a fisherman for a local fishing vessel and he holds the position of a ‘master’ on the fishing vessel.
The prosecutor asked the court to adopt the recommendation by Probation and sentence the defendant to a term of probation.
According to the court, the circumstances that resulted in the arrest of the defendant stem from an incident where he attempted to burglarize a store in Nuuuli.
Saufale was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. Execution of sentence was suspended and Saufale was placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions.
He was ordered to serve a period of detention of 20 months at the Tafuna Correctional Facility (TCF), however, the court ordered Saufale serve only 16 months of his period of detention. He will be credited for the 15 months he served during his pretrial conference detention, leaving a balance of one more month to serve.
The court ordered the defendant to seek and secure gainful employment to pay his $2,000 fines. Probation review is in June 2022
The court informed Saufale that come June this year for his probation review, the court is expecting a report that can persuade them to modify his sentence. However, if he violates any of his probation conditions, it will be very hard for him to persuade the court not to send him back to jail to serve the remaining period of his sentence.
A man who failed to comply with conditions of his 5-year probation has been given another chance. Probationer Faatino Fotu was arrested on Nov. 16th after he tested positive for marijuana (weed).
Fotu appeared in court last month for a preliminary hearing, where he admitted that he failed to comply with conditions of his probation, which required him to be drug and alcohol free.
According to Probation, a random urinalysis on Fotu administered Nov. 16th at the District Court came back positive for weed. Fotu admitted to Probation that he smoked weed at his grandma’s birthday party the night before.
Fotu appeared in court last week for a Disposition Hearing, where his attorney asked the court not to revoke his client’s probation but instead, allow him to continue on probation. He said that after his client was released from custody last year, he complied with all conditions of probation.
According to Fotu’s defense attorney, Fotu was employed when he was arrested in November. He paid his fine in full and was also current with his monthly visitations to Probation. Defense attorney said his client screwed up when he smoked weed.
Fotu apologized for his actions and asked for a chance to continue on Probation. He assured the court that he would not violate any conditions of probation.
In handing down its decision, the court told Fotu his probation would not be revoked; however, if he fails to comply with any of the conditions set forth, he will not get any more chances. Furthermore, the court added one additional condition to Fotu’s probation — he shall depart the territory and remain outside of its border for the duration of his probation.
This condition, according to the court will activate once Fotu fails to comply with court orders.
A young man convicted of a crime while still on probation for another was ordered to serve out his period of detention that had been suspended at the beginning of this year, which was 38 days at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF).
Kalati Tavita appeared in District Court last week for two separate hearings — a pretrial conference for his new case and disposition hearing for his previous case.
Court records show that while Tavita was on 6 months probation from a PPD conviction at the beginning of last year, he was arrested by police in April on another criminal charge, this time with trespassing, 3rd-degree assault and 3rd-degree property damage.
When Tavita’s case was called, his defense attorney informed the court that they had reached an agreement with the government on his new case.
According to terms of the plea agreement, Tavita would pled guilty to 3rd degree property damage and both parties recommended probation on the condition that Tavita pays restitution in the amount of $710 for damaging the victim’s property.
Furthermore, both parties also recommended to the court not to revoke Davit’s probation, but instead to modify it.
Facts of the case show that around April of last year, Tavita went to the victim’s home uninvited and damaged his property including a glass door to the house, a weed-eater; the door to the house and screen-wire on 3 windows, for a total cost of $710.
In delivering its decision, the court reminded Tavita that when he appeared in court for sentencing on his previous matter, the court suspended his period of detention of 38 days. The court then revoked his probation and ordered him to serve the 38 days at the TCF.
In the new matter, the court sentenced him to 6 months probation under the conditions that he pay restitution in the amount of $710 and serve 45 days at the TCF. He was credited for the two months he served at TCF while awaiting the outcome of his case.
Since Tavita had served more time than the period of detention the court ordered him to serve, he was released from custody after sentencing.
Tavita was also reminded that the court wants to see that he has paid half of his restitution when he appears in court on Apr. 21 for a probation review hearing.
Furthermore, the court ordered Tavita to attend anger management, be law abiding and look for a job to pay his restitution.
The victim, who was in court during Tavita’s court proceeding hugged the defendant outside of the courtroom. According to the government’s case, the victim is the defendant’s uncle.
A man allegedly found with two glass pipes containing methamphetamine (meth) inside his vehicle when police pulled him over for a traffic violation almost two years ago has finally been arrested and charged.
The question of why the government waited so long to charge Felise Taouma in this case is still unanswered.
According to the government’s case, on Dec. 13, 2019 cops observed a vehicle speeding and the driver was not wearing his seatbelt. A traffic stop in front of a store in Tafuna was made by police.
The driver of the vehicle was later identified as Felise Taouma, the defendant in this case. He did not have his driver’s license or any other form of photo identification on him.
Before Taouma was transported to the TPS because of no ID, police conducted a body search and nothing was found. The search then moved to the vehicle where police discovered a black pouch between the driver’s and passenger’s seats. Inside the black pouch were two glass pipes containing white powder.
The white powder was later tested and the result was positive for meth.
Taouma refused to make a statement to police regarding the glass pipes containing meth.
He made his initial appearance in District Court where he was charged with one count of unlawful possession of meth, a felony.
Bail is set at $5,000.
Taouma is scheduled to appear in court next month after he entered a not guilty plea to the charge against him when he appeared in High Court for arraignment two weeks ago.
The driver of a car in which police allegedly found a bag containing a white crystalline substance, marijuana joints, and drug paraphernalia has been arrested and charged.
Agamalie Peniata made his initial appearance in District Court last month.
He is charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth); and one count of unlawful possession of marijuana — both felonies, carrying a jail term of 5-10 years, a fine of $5,000-$20,000 or both for each count.
Bail is set at $10,000.
Peniata and another man were in a car that was pulled over by police in the Tafuna area for speeding last month. Peniata was the driver. Samoa News is withholding the identity of the passenger until he is formally charged.
When asked for identification, Peniata presented a driver’s license and an immigration ID — both of which had expired.
Officers instructed Peniata and the passenger to exit the vehicle and they were taken in for questioning while the vehicle was impounded.
At the police station, the two officers who escorted Peniata, said a baggie containing a white crystalline substance fell out when Peniata exited the police unit. One of the officers asked Peniata about the baggie and he responded, “I don’t know and that does not belong to me.”
When police checked where Peniata was seated, they found another baggie containing a white crystalline substance, and during a body search, officers found a glass pipe containing a white crystalline substance on Peniata.
An inventory of Peniata’s vehicle netted a small bag in the back seat, containing one glass pipe with a white crystalline substance, and one baggie containing a green leafy substance.
The white crystalline substance tested positive for meth, while the green leafy substance tested positive for THC, the active compound in marijuana.
Peniata refused to make a statement to officers regarding the illegal drugs allegedly discovered on his person and inside his vehicle
According to the passenger, he was surprised when police found drugs in the vehicle. The passenger was released after questioning as officers continue with their investigation