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Father who begged to go home to take care of his family violates probation

American Samoa High Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A father of four was arrested again last month on the allegation that he violated conditions of his 5-year probation, which was handed down by the High Court 4 years ago.

Vineula Pelenato, who has been in custody since his arrest two weeks ago pursuant to an arrest warrant, appeared in High Court last week for a preliminary examination. Pelenato told the court that on Sept. 23, 2020 when he came in for his monthly visit to Probation, he took a drug test and it came back positive for meth.

He said he smoked meth two days prior while working on his plantation. The court wanted to know more about Pelenato’s actions that day.

Pelenato said he smoked ice so he could gain strength to help with his daily routine.  According to Probation, this was the same excuse Pelenato used when he tested positive for meth last year, on July 10, 2019. Pelenato was remanded to custody without bail. A disposition hearing is set for Nov. 21, 2020.

Court records note that on Feb. 3, 2019, Pelenato was ordered by the High Court to serve out the remaining 8 months of his prison term, although he was allowed to work during government work-hours.

Pelenato was convicted of assaulting a man from Pago Pago with a metal pipe.

In September 2016 he was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment, but execution of the sentence was suspended and he was placed on 5 years probation, with several conditions, which included serving 20 months behind bars, paying $2,000 and attending and completing alcohol and drug counseling.

Pelenato only served 12 months at TCF before he was released and the court waived the remaining 8 months, as long as he complied with conditions of probation. He was also subject to random alcohol and drug testing, and obligated to visit Probation once a month. It was during a Probation visit last year that Pelenato tested positive and was taken into custody.

At his probation review hearing in February 2019, Pelenato apologized and sought a chance to remain out of jail so he could be with his family. He promised he would not violate any more conditions of his probation.

Pelenato was told during that hearing that the court had not forgotten the seriousness of his crime; but nonetheless, Pelenato was given another chance.