“Get a job or go to jail for 5 years,” Court tells man convicted of violating his parole
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The High Court last week ordered a man, who was convicted of violating one of the conditions of his probation, that he not set foot in the area called, “Le Filifili” to find a job or end up back in jail.
“Mr. Sagote, this will be your last chance, so seek gainful employment or you will go to jail for 5 years,” Chief Justice Michael Kruse told the defendant during his Disposition hearing after being convicted of violating conditions of his probation.
According to the court, Sharnel Sagote also tested positive for methamphetamine while he was being held at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF), awaiting his hearing.
Sagote was on probation after being convicted of unlawful possession of methamphetamine.
When Sagote’s case was called, defense attorney Rob McNeill asked the court to adopt the recommendation by the Probation Office, not to revoke his client’s probation but order him to be released from TCF so that he can seek and secure gainful employment.
Prosecutor Laura Garvey echoed McNeill’s statement and asked the court to adopt the Probation Office’s recommendation.
Kruse called Chief Probation Officer, Malcolm Polu to the stand to tell the court why he wanted the defendant to be released from custody.
Polu told the court that all of Sagote’s other tests were negative, including the test done before his hearing last Friday.
Before delivering its decision, the court explained to Sagote how serious his crime was when police arrested him with another male individual in November of 2018 in the area called, “Le Filifili”, a.k.a “Logotala”.
According to the court, several police officers were looking for a man accused of kidnapping a young lady when they met up with two male individuals standing on the side of the road going up to the Logotala hill. The two individuals were Sagote and Soo Savelio.
Police arrested Sagote and Savelio after illegal drugs were discovered in their possession during a body search.
Sagote was initially charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine; and unlawful possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute. But under a plea agreement with the government, which was accepted by the court, he pled guilty to a lesser, amended charge.
In the current case, after reviewing the report by Probation, the court modified Sagote’s probation and ordered that he be be released from TCF, and was given 90 days to seek and secure gainful employment. If the defendant does not secure gainful employment inside 90 days, he will spend time in jail.
The court made it clear to the defendant that gainful employment does not include a family farm. The court further instructed the defendant to not go back to his old life where he used to sell drugs in the area called, “Le Filifili”. He was again ordered to stay away from that area and not set foot on the land.
TCF AND DRUGS
The court also told the Chief Probation officer to find out who the Watch Commander was at the TCF on the date when Sagote tested positive for meth.
According to the court, this is one of the ongoing problems with the TCF right now — there are rumors circulating that inmates have access to drugs inside the facility. As a result, inmates are testing positive for methamphetamine or marijuana.
A member of the American Samoa Bar Association told Samoa News that the problem of illegal drugs inside the TCF is getting worse and the government needs to do something to stop illegal drugs from entering the TCF.
“The government is putting up a lot of money to build the new walls in an effort to avoid inmates from escaping and also illegal drugs from entering.
“However, its seems like the problem is still there because some of the TCF guards and officials are allegedly involved in getting the illegal drugs inside,” the member of the AS Bar Association said, referring to a criminal case from last month where a TCF guard and a woman working together are now charged with trying to smuggle methamphetamine into the TCF to an inmate.