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Family confrontation lands man in Immigration custody

American Samoa District Court building
The sponsor is off island and expected to return this week

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — "The situation is different here, in that, one cannot comply with the law because another didn't comply." These were the words of District Court Judge Fiti Sunia last Thursday when Matai'a Mataio made his initial appearance after being charged with domestic violence.

During court proceedings, the court heard from an Immigration officer, that Matai'a also goes by the name of Mataio Seto, and his immigration ID expired Nov. 6, 2018.

Defense attorney, Assistant Public Defender Anna Wells told the court that someone else is willing to take over sponsorship of her client. Judge Sunia asked why Seto had not petitioned for an ID renewal.

"Who does that?" Sunia asked. The Immigration officer said the renewal is the sponsor's responsibility. It was then revealed that Seto's ID was valid before his sponsor departed the territory, and it expired while the sponsor was still off island.

And a petition for renewal cannot be made until the sponsor returns, sometime this week.

Sunia asked Seto if he owed any money to LBJ Hospital. The defendant said no.

Sunia then remanded Seto into the custody of the Immigration Office. "He is now your responsibility, not ours," said the judge, adding that a person in Immigration custody will stay where Immigration tells them to stay, do what they tell him to do, and keep him where they want to keep him.

"That's how it works," Sunia said to Seto.

According to Sunia, Seto's situation is 'different', in that, he cannot comply with Immigration laws because his sponsor has not complied with the same laws.

Conditions of release include Seto being a law abiding citizen. He is also ordered to maintain contact with his attorney; not leave or attempt to leave the territory; and he is not to make any direct or indirect contact with the victims in this case.

He is also ordered to stay away from the Malaeimi Fish Market - where he is a vendor - while his case is pending.

A pretrial conference is set for Feb. 20


Last Friday, Jan. 25, Seto again appeared in District Court. This time, he was making an initial appearance for a bench warrant issued for failing to appear in court to answer to citations that were issued in 2017.

Seto was in custody (handcuffed) when he came to court Friday.

Sunia wanted to know where the Immigration officers were, as Seto had been remanded to the custody of the Immigration Office the day before.

When Sunia asked Seto why he failed to appear in court for his 2017 citations, Seto said he forgot.

Sunia then quashed the bench warrant and set the matter for a hearing on Feb. 20, the same day as Seto's pretrial conference for his recent case.

The judge released Seto and told him that the standard conditions of release are still in effect; in addition, he has to get his ID renewed or be in the process of renewing it.


According to the criminal complaint, police were called for assistance in Malaeimi last Wednesday, Jan. 23 after Seto allegedly threw a piece of firewood at the victim, nearly hitting the victim's mother.

(Samoa News understands that the victim is Seto's brother-in-law).

The government alleges that the victim had told Seto to stop, but to no avail. Seto is also alleged to have gone after the victim with a machete, but the victim's parents stepped in and stopped him.

Seto is charged with third degree assault and public peace disturbance (domestic violence).

He is represented by Assistant Public Defender Anna Wells while prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Jason Mitchell.