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Man pleads to lesser charges in alleged machete assault

American Samoa High Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man accused of assault with a machete has entered into a plea agreement with the government.

Opetaia Lafaele, who has been in custody since his arrest in 2019 appeared in court last week for his Change of Plea (COP) hearing.

Lafaele, 50, was initially charged with a class A felony first-degree assault, which carries a punishment of life imprisonment or at least 30 years in jail. But under a plea agreement with the government, Lafaele pled guilty to the lesser felony of second-degree assault, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 5 years, or a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

With his guilty plea, Lafaele admits that on Nov. 30, 2019 at his plantation, he struck the victim two times with a machete causing severe injuries to him.

According to terms of the plea agreement, the charges against Lafaele stem from an incident where he struck a man with a machete when he found the man stealing taro and banana from his plantation.

Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 14 and Lafaele is still in custody, unable to post his $25,000 surety bond