Man receives another “second” chance after drug conviction
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man with a prior conviction for receiving stolen property 3 years ago was sentenced by the High Court last week to 5 years probation after being convicted for violating local drug laws.
Muka Godinet, who was released on bond, appeared before Chief Justice Michael Kruse last week for sentencing. He was represented by Assistant Public Defender Ryan Anderson while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Kristine Soule.
Godinet was initially charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth), a felony that carries a sentence of imprisonment for not less than five years nor more than ten years and a fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than $20,000, or both.
However under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, Godinet pled guilty to the amended lesser charge of unlawful possession of meth, a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
With his guilty plea, Godinet admits that Apr. 22, 2020 he unlawfully possessed a glass pipe containing meth.
When given the change to address the court, he apologized to the court for committing a crime. He said that he made a mistake and he won’t do it again. He then requested the court for another chance to continue his service for his family.
Defense attorney, Anderson asked the court to sentence his client to a period of probation without any additional period of detention. He said that his client is truly remorseful for what he did and takes full responsibility for his action.
According to Anderson, his client works full time at a local construction company to provide for his family. He told the court that a probated sentence will allow his client to continue with his employment and to provide for his family.
The prosecutor echoed the defense’s submission saying that the defendant is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence. Soule stated to the court that the quantity of meth found in the defendant’s possession proves that it was for personal use.
The court agreed.
Godinet was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and $2,000 fine. Execution of sentence is suspended and the defendant is placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions.
He shall serve a period of detention of 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) without any release whatsoever unless for a genuine emergency or by order of the court. Execution of the period of detention is that the defendant is sentenced to time served in TCF before he posted bond. The balance of detention is stayed until further order of the court.
The defendant is ordered not to consume any alcohol or possess any illegal drugs and he is subject to random drug testing to make sure he’s in compliance with the ‘stay clean’ condition.
The court further orders that he continue to be employed with the construction company he’s currently working at right now to support his family. He must also attend and complete substance abuse counseling and be law abiding.
Associate Judge Muasau T. Tofili assisted Kruse on the bench.
On Apr. 22, 2020 at around 11 a.m, several police officers including detectives from the DPS Vice and Narcotics Unit responded to an incident involving a vehicle at the Manumalo School parking lot where drugs were discovered during a traffic stop.
While officers were speaking with the driver of the vehicle regarding his registration together with his driver’s license, one officer observed some paraphernalia inside the car. Two male individuals were inside the vehicle — the driver and a passenger, who was later identified as Godinet, the defendant in this matter.
The officer further told investigators while he was speaking to the driver, the defendant at the same time was moving around, acting nervous and constantly asking another police officer to please let him go.
The defendant and the driver of the vehicle were both informed by police officers that the vehicle was going to be impounded for expired tags, and both of them would be transported to the Tafuna Police Station (TPS) for further investigation.
Before the defendant and the driver of the vehicle were transported to the TPS, a pat down search was conducted and illegal drugs, meth, was found on the passenger.
(The white crystalline substance was field-tested and the test results yielded positive for meth.)
Godinet told investigators that he had been in jail for a year and he had just finished a two-year probation. He said he had been staying clean and he has kids that he’s been taking care of and he had stayed away from trouble during his probation.
The driver of the vehicle told investigators that it was Godinet who initiated contact for and use of the illegal drugs, mentioning “Le Filifili” and asking him if he wanted “some stuff for the night.”
His stolen property conviction happened in May of 2018. At the time, Godinet was sentenced to 12 months in jail after being convicted of receiving stolen property, a class A misdemeanor. Execution of his sentence was suspended and he was placed on probation for 2 years.
During his sentencing, Godinet told the court that it was his drug problem that pushed him to accept the stolen items. He promised the court that he would do his best not to have a problem with the law again, and he would quit doing drugs.
Judge Patea, who was the Acting Associate Justice at the time told Godinet the court would accept his submission for a second chance but he needed to address his drug problem and to make sure not to repeat it.