High Court deals with a number of plea agreements, a contempt order and a sentencing
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 40-year-old man from Nuuuli who was accused of driving a motor vehicle while his license has been permanently suspended by the court has pled guilty to felony driving, a class D felony.
Paea Fifita, who has remained in custody since his arrest on Aug. 9, 2018 appeared in High Court yesterday morning for his Change of Plea hearing. He was represented by Public Defender Michael White, while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey.
Fifita pled guilty to the initial charge under a plea agreement with the government. With his guilty plea, Fifita admits that on Aug. 9, 2018 he operated a motor vehicle on the public highways while his license was permanently suspended by the District Court.
Fifita has been convicted by the District Court of the charge of driving under the influence of alcohol three times previously.
His plea agreement was accepted by the court and sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 28 at 8:30a.m.
Chief Justice Michael Kruse has given 90 days to a bus driver to pay his fine in the amount of $1000 in full, or he will be found in contempt of court for failure to comply with conditions of his 2014 probation.
Leva’a Lesuni appeared in High Court last Friday for his Probation Review hearing.
According to the Probation report presented to the court, Lesuni is current with most of his probation conditions, including his alcohol counseling and paying his restitution in the full amount of $305.42. However, for his fine of $1,000, he has only paid $39.57.
Lesuni’s probation will expire in July of next year.
When asked for the reason why he has not paid off his fine, Lesuni told the court that he has a lot of personal obligations to take care of first, such as his family fa’alavelaves and also supporting his family and paying his bills.
Kruse reminded Lesuni that the reason the court had stayed the remaining period of his detention — after he served 6 months — was to give him the opportunity to seek employment to pay his fine and restitution.
“Are you telling to the court that your fa’alavelave is more important than the fine,” Kruse asked Lesuni. He replied, “No, the court is my first priority.”
Lesuni immediately apologized to the court for not paying his fine, and stated that he had already spoke to the probation officer about his fine, and they agreed that he will make a payment of $150 a month.
“Your agreement with the probation office is not binding on this court. Once the court orders you to pay your fine, you have to comply to it. I’m giving you 90 days to pay your fine, if you fail, I’ll hold you in contempt,” Kruse concluded.
Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea has accepted the plea agreement between the government and Mareko Lafoga, who is accused of stabbing a man during a drinking session earlier this year.
Lafoga, who has been in custody since his arrest, unable to post a $15,000 cash bond appeared in High Court last week for a Change of Plea hearing. He was represented by Public Defender Michael White, while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Jason Mitchell.
Lafoga, 38, was accused of stabbing a man with a metal object, following a verbal argument during a drinking session at the victim’s home in Malaeimi. He was facing one count of first degree assault, however in a plea deal with the government, he entered a guilty plea to second degree assault, which was amended from the original count in this matter.
According to court documents, the government claims that on Jan. 28, 2018, Lafoga was at the victim’s house for a birthday party. Lafoga and the victim are very close friends. It was near the end of the party when a verbal argument between Lafoga and another man started, and Lafoga became pissed-off with the man.
The victim then stepped up and tried to calm the verbal argument between Lafoga and the other man.
However, out of nowhere, the man who had been arguing with Lafoga punched Lafoga in the face which caused him to fall on the ground. Lafoga stood up and immediately stabbed the person who was standing behind him (which was the victim), thinking that he was the one who punched him.
Court filings say the wounded man was taken to the LBJ Hospital where he was hospitalized in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for 4 days.
Uputaua Filivaa, who pled guilty to third degree assault last week — a charge amended from assault in the first degree – was sentenced to time served.
Chief Justice Michael Kruse handed down sentencing in this case last Friday. During the plea agreement hearing, upon questioning by the CJ, the defendant admitted pulling a knife against the victim.
Kruse asked the defendant if he agrees that it’s unfair that he was the only one charged in the altercation, and if the complaining witness should have also been charged, and the defendant replied “yes”.
According to the government’s case, police received a report by a complaining witness that the defendant had stabbed him in the hand, while accusing him of stealing items from his house and also attempted to stab him in his leg, but missed.
Court documents state that the Emergency Medical Services treated the injuries the victim sustained from the attack, and it’s alleged the injuries were not serious. The incident took place in front of a store in Tafuna.
Police confiscated the knife from the defendant’s residence, and it was turned into the police evidence room.