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Hearing on positive drug tests at TCF continued

Chief Justice F. Michael Kruse

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The hearing scheduled for last Friday on the issue of how inmates serving time inside at the Territorial Correction Facility (TCF) are able to access illegal substances has been continued after the court was informed that the warden was unable to attend the hearing.

According to the government’s attorney, the warden was admitted to LBJ Hospital and he’s in the ICU.

The warden, former Deputy Commissioner, Falanaipupu Tase Sagapolutele, along with Deputy Commissioner Foifua Foifua Jr were subpoenaed to appear in court last Friday to answer the court’s questions as to how illegal substances enter the facility.

 DC Foifua Jr was in court.

It was during the Disposition hearing for a convicted drug offender, Ronald Pickering two weeks ago when Chief Justice Michael Kruse ordered subpoenas for Falanaipupu and Foifua Jr.

When Pickering’s case was called in court last week, the prosecutor informed the court of the warden’s situation and asked for a continuance.

Defense attorney, Ryan Anderson informed the court that he and his client are ready to go forward with the Disposition hearing despite the warden’s inability to attend.

The court granted the government’s motion to continue the hearing until the warden is recovered and then ordered Pickering to be released from custody pending the Disposition hearing, which is now scheduled for next month.

The court advised the defendant to stay clean and comply with conditions of his release including his weekly visitation to Probation where he should undergo alcohol and drug testing.


Drugs entering the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) and prisoners having access to drugs has been an ongoing problem in the territory for many years now. Despite the ‘high’ wall built around the facility during the Lolo and Lemanu administration, inmates are still testing positive for methamphetamine (meth) and marijuana, which the court says is a solid sign that drugs are still getting into the facility — despite the high walls now surrounding the facility.

Two weeks ago, Kruse issued subpoenas for Fo’ifua Fo’ifua and Falana’ipupu to appear before the High Court last Friday to answer questions regarding the problem of drugs allegedly entering the TCF still on the rise and why they can’t maintain the facility (TCF) as a ‘drug free’ compound.

It was during the hearing of inmate, Ronald Pickering that the Court ordered the two top officials of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to appear in court.

In sentencing of the defendant in August of 2019, Kruse said Pickering’s drug use not only ruined his life, but also the lives of those who depend on him: his wife and child. He said there is no solution for personal use.

According to the court, the defendant was not clean after he was arrested last year. While released on his own recognizance, Pickering tested positive for meth. His $2,000 cash bond was forfeited and a new cash bond of $5,000 was issued.

Pickering was stopped for a seatbelt violation and was taken into custody when he couldn’t produce a valid ID. Kruse said the defendant is not new to the system. Based on court records, Pickering was convicted of a DUI a few years back.

Kruse said Pickering has a drug problem, and the court ordered him to stay clean after he was caught with a glass pipe; but he returned to his normal routine and went back to drugs.

Pickering was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and a $2,000 fine. Execution of jail time was suspended and he was placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions. He has to serve 20 months at the TCF; 180 days first, and the balance be served by further order of the court.

He was ordered to remain alcohol and drugs free, and is subject to random testing.