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Federal shutdown leads to continuance in jury trial for Taputimu man

American Samoa High Court building
The DEA chemist cannot travel - at this time - to testify

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Chief Justice Michael Kruse has granted a motion from Assistant Attorney General Christy Dunn to continue the jury trial for drug defendant Cody Wood.

During court proceedings last Friday, prosecutor Dunn informed the court that the federal shutdown has resulted in the unavailability of one of their witnesses — a chemist from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

According to Dunn, at this time — with the federal shutdown still in effect — the chemist is not able to testify, let alone travel to the territory to provide testimony that is "critical" to the government's case.

Defense attorney Richard deSaulles opposed the motion for a continuance, saying his client has been in custody at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) for 14 months and he is "not comfortable" with "putting off" the matter.

However, Kruse said the motion is "well-taken" and granted it to the prosecution.

The government's other request, the motion in Limine, asks the court to require the defense attorney — during trial — to approach the bench if he wishes to address matters that are already spelled out in the motion.

(A motion in Limine is basically a motion filed by a party to a lawsuit, which asks the court for an order or ruling, limiting or preventing certain evidence from being presented by the other side during trial).

deSaulles did not object to the government's motion, saying it is a "reasonable request."

Wood has been in custody since late 2017, unable to post a $200,000 bond.

He, along with former cop Steve Tuato'o, and taxi driver Taisia "Dice" Lemalie were all arrested and charged following the execution of search warrants for two residences — in Alofau and Taputimu — and a taxi that was pulled over by police on the main road.

During the search, police allegedly found in Wood's bedroom, a loaded 12 gauge shotgun, a loaded 357 Magnum revolver, ammunition, paraphernalia, $52,508.21 in cash, 15 baggies of a crystalline substance, and 3 baggies of a green leafy substance with an estimated street value of up to $100,000.

In his statement, Wood allegedly told police that he started selling marijuana in Feb. 2015 to help support his family, and later, when family bills began to increase, he started selling crystal meth. He said he did it to help cover his mother’s medical bills and he allegedly admitted to owning everything police claimed they found at his residence — including the meth and weed.