Drug offender probation includes 90 days to find a job, or return to jail
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A young man caught with meth and pot was sentenced by the court last week to a term of probation of 5 years after he entered into a plea bargain with the government.
The young man, Ripine Aiafi, appeared in court last week for sentencing. Prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey, while Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill represented Aiafi, who has been in custody since he was arrested in the beginning of this year.
Aiafi was initially charged in two separate cases. In the first case, he was charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine, a felony, while in the second case, Aiafi was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, a felony.
But under a plea agreement, Aiafi pled guilty to the amended charge of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
Aiafi admits that on Feb. 23, 2019, he unlawful possessed a glass pipe containing meth.
When given the chance to address the court, Afiafi apologized and stated that he’s truly remorseful for what he did. he further apologized to his parents for disobeying them, and to his whole family and church. He asked the court for a second chance so that he can go back home and rebuild himself. He said prison is not a good place to be, however, the lessons he learned while there will help him be a better person in the future.
McNeill asked the court to uphold the Probation Office’s recommendation for a probated sentence, to give Aiafi another chance to get his life together and find a job to support his parents and family. He said that after spending more than 9 months behind bars, Aiafi had learned a lesson, and he needs to move on with his life. He will also attend and complete drug counseling.
Aiafi’s attorney also told the court that his client has never been in trouble with the law before, and the quantity of illegal drugs found in his possession was small. However, McNeill did tell the court that while his client was still in custody, he tested positive for meth.
Unfortunately, Aiafi was to be released from custody after he entered into the plea agreement with the government in September of this year, however, he was remanded back to the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) that same day, after he tested positive for meth.
When asked for the government’s position in this case, prosecutor Garvey echoed McNeill’s submission for a probated sentence, saying the government agreed that Aiafi is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence.
Judge Elvis P. Patea stated that the court was dealing with two cases regarding this defendant. According to the court, Aiafi was first charged for a unlawful possession charge occurred in Nov. 2018 when police discovered a glass pipe contained methamphetamine on his possession.
Few months later according to the court, Aiafi was charged with his second case when police discovered a stamp sized baggie containing marijuana in his possession.
After reviewing all facts of the case, Patea said the court believes that this young man has a drug problem that needs to be addressed. However, attorneys from both sides reminded the court that there are no available treatment facilities on island that can address the defendant’s problem.
Patea sentenced Aiafi to 5 years imprisonment; however, the sentence was suspended and he is placed on probation for 5 years on several conditions, which include serving 20 months at the TCF.
Execution of detention shall be as follows: after serving 10 months at the TCF—includes the 9 months he has already served — Aiafi shall be released from confinement for a period of 90 days in order for him to seek and secure gainful employment.
Gainful employment according to Patea does not include working on the family farm.
If Aiafi can not secure gainful employment within 90 days, he will report back to the TCF to serve the balance of his detention. However, if he secures gainful employment, the balance of detention shall be stayed, until further order of the court.
Additionally, Aiafi was ordered to pay a fine of $1,000; stay clean from alcohol or illegal drugs, submit himself for random testing, and be law abiding at all times throughout probation.