Drug trial begins today with defendant set to appear remotely
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — One of the co-defendants in a case where police raided two homes in Pago Pago in 2018 and allegedly found illegal drugs has opted for a jury trial.
Sio Godinet Jr, who is still in custody unable to post a $50,000 bond after being re-arrested by police in July of 2018 after the government re-filed the case against him, will appear before Chief Justice Michael Kruse this morning as the trial begins.
Prosecuting the government’s case was Assistant Attorney General Kristine Soule’ while Assistant Public Defender, Ryan Anderson is representing Godinet Jr.
Godinet Jr appeared in court earlier for an Expedited Hearing on the government’s motion for the witness to appear via video conference. The motion was granted by the court.
Godinet Jr is charged with four counts, including unlawful possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine (meth) with intent to distribute; unlawful possession of a controlled substance, meth; unlawful possession of a controlled substance, marijuana with intent to distribute, and unlawful possession of a controlled substance, marijuana, all unclassified felonies, each will punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five years, nor more than twenty years, a fine up to $20,000, or both.
The government alleges that in Feb. 2018, police were tipped off by a confidential informant (CI) about a home in Pago Pago allegedly housing a drug business. The ringleader was alleged to be Sio Godinet Jr. (defendant) and the operation involved two others: Lyon Grey and Meriko Lomu (co-defendants).
Before Godinet’s house was raided, a controlled buy was organized by police in April 2018. The CI was given cash to buy drugs from Lomu, who was with Godinet in Godinet’s vehicle when the controlled buy took place.
A search warrant was later issued for the two-story structure belonging to Godinet. The May 15th search netted drugs and paraphernalia in an empty room on the first floor. Police found 10 grams of marijuana, a large amount of meth, and paraphernalia such as 4 glass pipes with meth inside, 2 glass pipes containing marijuana, several empty small baggies, cut-up straws, and cash.
Drugs allegedly found at Godinet Jr.’s two-story house were tested and were found positive for meth, and THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
Godinet Jr was not in the room where the drugs were found. Instead police found him in his primary home a few feet away from the two-story structure, without any drugs on him. However, Grey and Lomu were in the room where the contraband was found. When arrested, Grey refused to speak to police.
In June 2018, Godinet Jr’s case was dismissed without prejudice by District Court Judge Fiti Sunia at the time, after the court was unable to find probable cause and sufficient evidence to bind the case over to High Court for arraignment.
Sunia pointed out in delivering his decision that the four criminal charges filed by the government against Sio Godinet Jr., stem from an alleged incident that occurred around April of this year, which was a controlled buy.
However, the testimony, which was presented by the government’s only witness during preliminary examination (PX), was mainly based on the incident that occurred on May 15 of this year when police officers executed the search warrant the defendant’s home.
Sunia stated that these two alleged incidents happened at two separate times, and one cannot be used to substantiate the other. For this reason, the case against the defendant was dismissed.
NEW CASE AGAINST GODINET JR FILED
One week later in July 2018, Godinet Jr. was re-arrested after the government re-filed their case against him. The new case was based on new information, in which a different controlled buy conducted in April led up to the raid of two homes in Pago Pago in May.
In the new filing, a CI told police that he overheard a conversation between the defendant and an unidentified man about how his operation was going well and he was becoming “big time” in the drug game. This was in March.
The following month, the CI informed police about people visiting Godinet’s home in Pago Pago and coming out with plastic baggies containing a white crystalline substance.
The court filings mention that the CI saw Godent Jr. with his female co-defendant Meriko Lomu selling drugs from a vehicle.
The charging information revealed a connection between this drug selling operation and the Aute.
It quotes the CI saying that Lomu’s customers and “runners” from Fagatogo were being used in the drug selling operation out of Godinet Jr.’s residence.
And the defendant had been forgiven by dealers at the Aute, who were now allowing him to “reload” his drug supply through Lomu and another co-defendant Lyon Grey.
The informant states that the “re-supply” was done by either Lomu and/ or Godinet Jr. in Godinet Jr.’s vehicle or by Grey in his silver truck or on his yellow motorbike.
Court documents go on to say that over the span of two months the CI saw Lomu and Godinet Jr use four different vehicles to sell and deliver drugs.
Then on May 15 police raided two homes, one belonging to Godinet Jr., which was believed to be a “traphouse” for storing, packing and selling drugs” while the other house belonged to Gray.
At Godinet’s property according to the court documents, police saw two individuals identified as Lomu and Grey who appeared to be packing drugs, while another male identified as MF was sitting in the dark.
Police found drugs and paraphernalia associated with drugs in a small room during their search.
Godinet Jr was located inside another house.
CO-DEFENDANT LYON GREY
One of the co-defendants in Godinet Jr’s case, Lyon Grey is serving a 10-year sentence after he pled guilty in Feb. 2020 to the amended charge of unlawful possession of meth; and the amended charge of unlawful possession of marijuana — both class D felonies — under a plea agreement, which was accepted by the court.
During his sentencing, Grey admits that on May 15, 2018 in Pago Pago, he had on him a baggie containing meth, and on the same date, police found on him a baggie containing marijuana.
When given the chance to address the court, Grey apologized to the court and asked for a second chance to return home to be with his family. He also apologized to his family and the people involved, specifically his co-defendant Sio Godinet Jr., who was arrested because of him.
Grey told the court that Godinet Jr. had nothing to do with the drugs found in his Pago residence. “All the drugs that were confiscated by police belonged to me,” Grey said.
Kruse interrupted and asked if Godinet Jr. is a co-defendant in this case, to which the prosecutor said yes. Kruse then turned to Grey and said, “You’re not the lawyer for Mr. Godinet. Mr. Godinet has his own lawyer. It appears to the court that you’re trying to testify on behalf of Mr. Godinet. Let Mr. Godinet speak for himself.” Kruse told Grey that Godinet Jr. will not get any credit from his testimony at all.
Kruse said the only decision the court can impose in these matters is to send everyone involved to jail. Grey was sentenced to 5 years each for unlawful possession of meth, and unlawful possession of marijuana — to run consecutively — meaning it’s a 10-year straight sentence.
CO-DEFENDANT MERIKO LOMU’S CASE
After spending over nine months behind bars awaiting sentencing, co-defendant in the Godinet Jr. case, Meriko Lomu was released from custody on the day of her sentencing after the court’s decision that the nine months she spent in custody awaiting the outcome of the case was sufficient as a period of detention for her crime.
Lomu was charged in two separate cases, both involving illegal drugs. After entering into an agreement with the government, Lomu agreed to plead guilty to possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute in the first case.
For the second case, she pled guilty to unlawful possession of methwith the intent to distribute, both unclassified felonies and each count is punishable by a jail term of not more than 10 years, a fine of up to $20,000 or both.
Chief Justice Michael Kruse sentenced Lomu to ten years imprisonment for each count. Sentences would run concurrently. Execution of the sentence was suspended and the defendant was placed on probation for 10 years with several conditions.
Lomu would undertake a 40-month period of detention at the TCF without release; however, execution of detention would commence on Friday, Dec. 06, 2019 the same date as Lomu's probation review.
“In this interim period prior to detention, the defendant will be under the supervision of the Chief of Probation," Kruse said, adding that Lomu will remain under the physical custody of her birth mother, who is now her new warden.
Lomu is not to have any direct or indirect contact with her two co-defendants or any members of their family. She is also to submit to random testing, visit Probation once a month, and attend and complete a substance-counseling program.