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Man convicted for domestic violence given another chance after his drug charge

American Samoa High Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 32-year-old man convicted for violating local drug laws while he’s on probation was given another chance by the court to straighten up his life.

Jake L. Ala, who has been in custody since his arrest last year, unable to post a $10,000 surety bond appeared before Associate Justice Fiti Sunia last week for sentencing.

Ala was initially charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine. But a plea agreement with the government that was accepted by the court, allowed Ala to plead guilty to a lesser amended charge, a class D felony punishable by up to 5 years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.

With his guilty plea, Ala admits that a glass pipe containing methamphetamine was found in his possession when police officers searched him during a traffic stop.

He told the court that he’s truly remorseful for his action and wanted to return back home to care for his young family. He stated to the court that the 13 and a half months he spent in jail was a long time for him. He believes he wasted many days of his life in custody due to his carelessness and stupidity. He promised the court that he will not violate any laws of the territory in the future.

His defense attorney, Ryan Anderson asked the court for a probated sentence saying that his client is a suitable candidate for a probated sentencing. Anderson told the court that his client was working in his own mechanic shop to provide for his family before he was arrested and charged in this case.

Prosecutor, Kristine Soule agreed with the defense’s submission and asked the court to sentence the defendant to a term of probation without any additional period of detention. Soule stated to the court that the government believes the defendant is truly remorseful for his action and he now realizes how dangerous his action was after spending over a year in custody.

After considering all facts of the case, submissions from both parties, the Pre Sentence Report (PSR) and the defendant’s statement, the court issued its decision.

For the issue of violating conditions of his 2018 probation while he was on a 24-month probation from a case which involved domestic violence, the court revoked probation and ordered Ala to serve 418 days at TCF. He’s credited with the 13 and a half months he’s already served while awaiting the outcome of his current case.

In this new matter, the court sentenced Ala to a term of probation of 5 years, subject to several conditions with which he must comply, including serving 20 months at the TCF. He will be credited for the 13 and a half months he’s already served. The balance of detention was deferred by the court based on the defendant’s good behavior.

Ala is also ordered to pay $1,000 and secure gainful employment. The court advised Ala that fixing cars on the side is not gainful employment, but fixing cars under a business license is considered as gainful employment.

“Ala, fixing cars under a ulu tree is not considered gainful employment, so go and work for somebody else,” Sunia advised the defendant.