Man convicted for unlicensed ammo — drug charges dropped despite testing positive
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man convicted of possession of an unlicensed arm was sentenced to serve 90 days at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) as a condition of his 24-month probation.
Johnny Vou appeared before Associate Justice Fiti Sunia this week for sentencing. He was represented by Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill while the prosecutor was Assistant Attorney General Kristine Soule.
Vou, was initially charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine; one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute; and two counts of possession of unlicensed arms, all felonies.
However, in a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court in February of this year, Vou pled guilty to the amended charge of possession of an unlicensed arm, a class A misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment of up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
As part of the plea agreement, the government asked the court to dismiss the more serious drug charges.
When given the chance to address the court, Vou apologized for his action and stated that he’s truly remorseful for breaking the law and that he had learned a lot of good lessons while sleeping on the cement floor at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) for over 2 months.
Sunia asked the defendant to explain to the court what he had learned from jail. Vou responded by saying that dealing with illegal activities and hanging around with the wrong people is the path to many troubles in life.
“Your honor, what I did was wrong and I have learned that I’ve shouldn’t be in this situation in the first place, however, due to my stupidity and carelessness, that was the reason why I ended up being in jail,” Vou said.
Defense attorney McNeill asked the court to adopt the recommendation by the Probation Office stated in the Pre Sentence Report (PSR), which stated that his client is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence.
Prosecutor Soule, presented a different recommendation to the court. She asked for a period of detention. According to the government, the defendant was released on $15,000 surety bond on the same date he made his initial appearance in District Court last year. However, on Jan. 24 of this year, the defendant was arrested for violating a condition of his release after testing positive for methamphetamine.
The government attorney further stated that despite the facts the more serious charges against the defendant were dismissed by the court pursuant to the plea agreement, the government feels that the defendant’s actions that led to his arrest were serious.
Before heading to the conference room for deliberation, Sunia asked the government two questions:
“Where is the weapon?” Sunia asked.
Soule responded that according to her notes, there was no weapon involved in the defendant’s case, only ammunition. McNeill echoed Soule’s statement.
“My second question is, how are you arguing for jail time for a criminal act that the government asked to dismiss?” Sunia said.
Soule agreed, however, she stated to the court that despite the facts the drug charges were dismissed pursuant to terms of the plea agreement, the defendant’s action was very serious.
She pointed out that the defendant was initially charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine and unlawful possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.
Sunia smiled and said that the court doesn’t like the idea of dismissing something and later on the government coming back and saying, “Well, this is related to the original charge.”
In delivering his decision, Sunia said in review of the case that the circumstances of the matter against the defendant involves an indirect way of finding discovery of a crime. Defendant was involved in an incident which caused him to sustain injuries to his body. Police responded to the matter for help and later discovered controlled substances and ammunition at the defendant’s home.
Sunia said that the court’s review of the defendant’s record revealed that he is someone who tries to follow a good path for his life. He graduated and was able to work in Alaska to provide for his family, before he moved back to American Samoa to continue his service for his parents. However, his ‘untruthful’ path led to his arrest.
The defendant was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment. Execution of sentence was suspended and the defendant was placed on probation for 24 months subject to several conditions he must follow.
He will serve 90 days at the TCF. He will be credited for the 72 days he already served during his pretrial confinement.
Conditions of his probation include no consumption of any alcohol or illegal drugs; and he is subject to random testing to make sure he’s in compliance with the stay clean order.
The defendant was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine within the first 90 days of his release from custody.
Associate Judges Mamea Sala Jr and Tunupopo Faleafaga Tunupopo assisted Sunia on the bench.
The charges against Vou stem from an incident that was reported to police during the early morning hours of Mar. 30, 2020. On the day in question, EMS alerted the DPS Tafuna substation regarding a distress call about a fight in Ottoville, where a male was reportedly injured. EMS could not respond until the fight was dispersed.
A half dozen police officers answered the call.
Police spoke to Vou's girlfriend who said she was the one who called for help, as her boyfriend, Vou, was injured in Iliili and it was her younger sister who brought him home.
Investigators noted that Vou sustained multiple abrasions on his face, hands, shoulders, back, and legs. EMS was dispatched. Cops say they attempted to wake Vou but "he was unresponsive," according to the court affidavit.
It was while the police were in Vou’s room that the ammunition was seen in a box laying on a table directly across from the bed where Vou was. The girlfriend denied knowing anything about the bullets, and then she woke Vou's parents and one of the cops filled the couple in, about what they had discovered.
EMS arrived and treated Vou. According to them, the injuries were not life threatening. Upon hearing this, Vou's father refused to take his son to the hospital, according to the court affidavit.
The couple was told that police needed to search their son's room, per discovery of the bullets that were now seized. Vou's father was compliant.
The search netted a number of items.
On the floor near Vou's bed, cops found 2 stamp-sized baggies containing a crystalline substance. On the table where the bullets were discovered, cops found 3 ziplock baggies — 2 contained white crystalized residue. Also found was a propane tank, a pencil case containing 3 straws that were cut and made into scoops, 4 stamp-sized baggies (empty).
In a container next to the TV, police discovered a pack of rolling papers, 2 straws with cut-up ends that looked like spoons, "commonly used to scoop meth."
In a trash can, investigators found a medium-sized baggie with a crystalized substance, a .22 hollow point round, 10 stamp-sized baggies of which 3 continued white crystalized residue.
In the closet, police recovered a green camouflage backpack containing a broken glass pipe "used to smoke ice," a melted glass pipe, 3 stamp-sized baggies containing a white crystalized substance, 2 gold chains, and a propane tank.
The search was interrupted when Vou's girlfriend's sister, asked police if she could get her green camouflage backpack. When shown the bag that contained the contraband the police had found, the woman verbally admitted that "it was her bag."
She was immediately arrested and transported to the DPS Tafuna substation.
At that time, Vou's father requested that EMS come a second time, to check on his son. Vou was subsequently transported to the LBJ for further treatment.
Meanwhile, the search at his home continued.
On the bed that Vou was lying on, police found a medium-sized baggie containing a small amount of a white crystalline substance, a ziplock baggie and 5 stamp-sized baggies (2 of which contained residue of a white crystalline substance).
Under the bed, police discovered a black coin purse with 4 stamp-sized baggies containing a white crystalline substance, and 6 empty stamp-sized baggies, a piece of broken glass with a white crystalline substance, and a sealed straw.
Both Vou and his girlfriend’s sister refused to make statements to police.