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Man with permanently suspended driver’s license defies court

American Samoa High Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 45-year-old man from Pago Pago who was convicted of driving with a permanently suspended license is going to jail. Atalino Fale, who has been in custody since his arrest, unable to post a $5,000 bond, appeared in court last week where he was sentenced to 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF), as a condition of a 5-year probation term.

Fale pled guilty to the initial charge under a plea agreement with the government. He admits that on Nov. 9, 2020 he operated a motor vehicle while his license was permanently suspended by the District Court. He had been convicted of driving under the influence three times previously.

When given the chance to speak, Fale apologized and asked for another chance to return home to care for his family. He said he was driving to the market to drop off some bananas and other crops from his plantation to sell.

Defense attorney asked the court for a probated sentence, saying he has already advised his client to find another way to transport his crops to the market to earn money for his family if he is released from prison.

He reminded to the court that despite his client's conviction, it is clear from the police report that there was no alcohol or illegal drugs involved when police pulled him over.

Prosecutor echoed the defense motion for a probated sentencing, saying Fale has shown true remorse. She however added that a period of incarceration is appropriate, so a message is sent out to other drivers whose licenses have been suspended that the court will not take these issues lightly.

In delivering his sentence, the court told Fale, “You took a big risk when you got behind the wheel, knowing that your driver’s license was permanently suspended by the court after you were convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol three times.”

It continued, “The only good thing in your favor, as stated by your defense attorney, is the fact that there was no alcohol or illegal drugs involved in this case, when police arrested you. Our sentence will reflect that."

Fale was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. Execution of the sentence was suspended and he was placed on probation for 5 years under certain conditions. He is to serve 20 months at the TCF. After 12 months, which includes time served, the court will consider a motion for work release.

Fale is not eligible for trustee status while at the TCF.