One of four Juvie DPS officer charged with 9 felony counts
Details have emerged on the charges connected with the four Public Safety officers who were assigned to the Juvenile Detention Center, after one of the accused, Alofagia Letuli, appeared yesterday in District Court, for a preliminary examination hearing.
Letuli along with Junior Utuga, Okesene Alo, and Olafou Wilson were arrested last week Thursday, and appeared the following morning in District Court for their initial appearance. However, District Court Judge Fiti Sunia ordered court staff not to release documents in the case, because they contain names of juveniles.
Based on information announced in open court yesterday, Letuli is facing nine felony charges — two counts of unlawful possession of illegal substance — crystal methamphetamine; one count of unlawful distribution of meth; three counts of aiding the escape of a prisoner; and three counts of permitting the escape of a prisoner.
Letuli is also charged with one misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child.
Following yesterday’s hearing, Sunia found that the government had sufficient evidence to prove that a crime has been committed and bound it over to High Court, where Letuli will be arraigned Friday morning with a plea to be entered at that time. Letuli remains in custody, with $60,000 bail unpaid at this time.
The government called only one witness at yesterday’s preliminary examination hearing. The sole witness, Det. Filemoni Amituana’i has been a police officer for 18 years, including ten years as an investigator. However, he has been reassigned to the Traffic Division, where he has worked for at least three weeks.
Amituana’i testified that the police investigation followed suspicion that a juvenile detainee held at JDC last September was allegedly using drugs. And a drug test for the detainee came back positive for crystal meth.
Based on the prosecutor’s questions, two juvenile detainees gave police statements that resulted in charges against Letuli. The detainees, during the government’s questioning, were identified only as Victim #2 and Victim #5, the one whose drug test came back positive.
Victim #5 is alleged to have stolen some crystal meth from a bag belonging to Alo, according to Amituana’i testimony.
Responding to the government’s questions, Amituana’i said that based on the interview with Victim #2 at the JDC last year, the detainee alleged that he witnessed Letuli smoking ice using a pipe sometime between Apr. 1 and July 31 last year.
For Victim #5, Amituana’i testified that the detainee stated that there was a time when he (the detainee) and Letuli late at night went to Letuli’s home, on the Western side of the island, to pick up crystal meth.
And on their way back to JDC, Letuli would park the car somewhere along the highway so Letuli could smoke ice using a pipe and there are times that Letuli would also give the pipe to Victim #5 to smoke and the detainee would do so, according to Amituana’i testimony based on the interview with Victim #5, who also stated that this happened about three or four times late at night last year.
Amituana’i said that a report was filed by JDC with the former police commissioner regarding incidents occurring at JDC between the detainees and officers. Thereafter the former police commissioner assigned him to conduct an investigation towards the end of November last year.
The defense argued, among other things, that there is no evidence to support charges against Letuli. The defense also questioned the credibility of Amituana’i testimony now that he has been demoted from detective to Traffic Division. The credibility of Victim #5’s statement to police was also questioned by the defense.
Amituana’i told the defense that he was not demoted but instead was “reassigned”.
Sunia said the High Court is the proper venue for the many questions raised by the defense, adding that the District Court’s role is to review all testimonies as to whether the government has sufficient evidence to prove that a crime has been committed and it has.
Letuli is represented by assistant public defender, Mathoni McCormick, while prosecuting the case is assistant attorney general Woodrow Pengelly.