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Man ordered to leave the territory after pot conviction

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man who entered into a plea agreement in a drug case has been ordered to depart the territory and remain outside of American Samoa borders for the duration of his 5-year probation sentence.

Joshua Taavili appeared in High Court last week for sentencing. He was represented by Assistant Public Defender Ryan Anderson, while prosecuting was Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey.

Taavili who has been in custody since his arrest on Jan. 30, 2020, unable to post a $5,000 surety bond, was initially charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance (marijuana).

But under a plea agreement with the government, Taavili pled guilty to the lesser, amended charge of unlawful possession of marijuana.

With his guilty plea, Taavili admits that on the day in question, he had in his possession two marijuana joints when police searched his body.

Taavili apologized to the court and asked for a chance to return to his family in Samoa, so he can find a job to care for his parents.

He said what he did was wrong and apologized to the American Samoa Government not only for breaking the law but also disobeying Immigration laws when he remained in the territory illegally.

Taavili immigration status expired two years before he was arrested.

Attorneys from both sides asked the court to adopt the recommendation in the Pre Sentence Report (PSR), and sentence Taavili to probation for 5 years.

Taavili was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment, but execution of the sentence is suspended, and he was placed on probation for 5 years under the condition that he depart the territory immediately and remain outside of its borders for the duration of probation.

He was also ordered to serve 20 months at the TCF. He will be credited the 11 months he served in pretrial confinement and the balance is stayed until further order of the court.

The court has ordered that a copy of the court's decision be delivered to the Immigration Office to ensure that Taavili’s name is on the lookout list.