Fono employee sent back to jail after positive drug test
For failure to comply with conditions of his 5-year probation, Fono employee Perenise Taala has been ordered by the High Court to serve the remaining 8 months of his prison term, although he is still allowed to work during government working-hours.
Taala was convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol causing the death of a person, and in October in 2014 he was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment, but execution of the sentence was suspended and the defendant was instead placed on 5 years probation, which came with several conditions.
Among the conditions, Taala was to serve 20 months behind bars, pay $2,000 as well as attend and complete alcoholic and drug counseling. Taala, however, served only 12 months in jail before he was released and the court waived the remaining 8 months — as long as he continued to abide with all conditions of his probation. He was also subject to random alcohol and drug testing, as well as obligated to visit the Probation Office once a month.
During a Probation Office visit on Feb. 9 this year, a drug test came back positive and Taala was immediately taken into custody for violating probation.
At his probation review hearing Wednesday this week, Taala apologized to the court for not abiding with all conditions of his probation 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.
He told the court that the three weeks he has been in jail after the drug test came back positive, has been a lesson and he is very remorseful for violating his probation.
Assistant attorney general Bob Picket and Taala’s attorney Public Defender, Douglas Fiaui argued for the court to accept the Probation Office pre sentence report for Taala to remain out on probation instead of remaining in jail.
Fiaui said he had already spoken to his client about the importance of complying with all conditions of probation, while Picket says it appears the defendant has a drug and alcohol problem and the court should help him.
However, Acting Associate Justice, Elvis P. Patea told Taala that the court has not forgotten the seriousness of his crime, which caused the death of another person. And despite the serious crime, Patea said the court gave Taala another chance in life with the sentence handed down at the time and then later waiving 8 months in jail.
With the positive drug test — of crystal meth — Patea said this clearly shows that the defendant failed to abide with the court’s order to comply with all conditions of his probation. Taala was then sentenced to serve out of the remaining 8 months in jail; however, he is allowed out for work purposes — Monday to Friday, from 7a.m. to 4p.m — at the Fono, where he has been employed since 2008.
During Taala’s case, Patea was joined on the bench by associate judges Mamea Sala Jr., and Muasau T. Tofili.
(Original Samoan story in yesterday’s Lali section of Samoa News)
Taala was the driver of a Toyota 4runner that rammed into a utility pole in Pava’ia’i killing one of the passengers in the car in September 2013.
In September 2014, he pled guilty to driving while under the influence of alcohol causing the death of a person under a plea agreement with the government while two other felony charges were dismissed. He was sentenced in October 2014.