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Overstayer already warned about probation violations — arrested again with meth in his pocket

American Samoa High Court building
ausage@samoanews.com

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 47-year-old man who is on probation after being convicted of felony drug possession is now back in custody after police allegedly discovered a quantity of illegal drugs in his possession during a traffic stop last month in Nu’uuli.

Olataga Tuiavi’i is charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth)  and one count of unlawful possession of meth with intent to distribute, both felonies which carry an imprisonment sentence between 5 to 10 years, a fine between $5,000 and $20,000, or both; along with one count of resisting arrest, a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

Tuiavi’i made his initial appearance in District Court last month where the court set a $15,000 surety bond.

The preliminary hearing is now scheduled for Thursday this week.

Court records show that Tuiavi’i is on probation from both District Court and High Court.

THE CASE

The government’s case against Tuiavi’i stems from an incident that occurred on Oct. 15th about 6:19p.m when two police officers patrolling the Nu’uuli public highway spotted a truck heading westbound with an expired license tag.

Officers radioed the dispatcher for a quick check on the status of the license plate, with the dispatcher stating that it had expired two years ago.

Officers pulled the vehicle over and only a driver, later identified as Tuiavi’i, the defendant in this matter, was in the vehicle.

Tuiavi’i argued that he had renewed his vehicle registration in November of last year. And, while officers were speaking with the defendant, he was seen moving suspiciously and was then instructed to turn off his engine and step outside. He at first resisted and started to move his vehicle forward, but a few moments later, he agreed to comply with police.

As it turned out the defendant also did not possess a valid driver’s license — it also had expired two years ago.

The two officers then impounded the vehicle and transported it to the Tafuna Police Substation, where one of the officers started issuing citations to the defendant for the violations and further informed the defendant that the vehicle would be inventoried because it was being impounded.

A pat-down was also conducted on Tuiavi’i per normal procedures where a medium sized baggie was found in the defendant’s right pocket. Inside the medium baggie were two small stamped-sized baggies containing white crystalline substance.

During the inventory search of the vehicle — with the defendant present — police observed a black pouch underneath the passenger seat. Inside the black pouch were 3 cut-up straws containing white crystalline substance.

Immediately after the alleged discovery of the white crystalline substance on the defendant and inside his vehicle, a police lieutenant contacted the DPS Vice and Narcotic and K9 Unit (VNU) for assistance for further investigation.

Upon arrival of two police lieutenants from the VNU, the case was immediately taken over for further investigation.

The white crystalline substance tested positive for meth.

The defendant was Mirandized and then made a verbal statement about the incident.

According to Tuiavi’i’s statement to police, the meth found in his possession and inside his vehicle does not belong to him. He said that when he got inside his vehicle, he witnessed the medium baggie inside the black pouch.

He removed the baggie containing meth and put it inside his pocket before he placed the black pouch under the passenger’s seat.

However, during the course of the interview, Tuiavii changed his story and according to his statement, admitted that the illegal drugs found in his possession and inside the vehicle belonged to him.

He bought the drugs from his old friend’s house in Vaitogi, he said. Tuiavi’i provided the location of his friend’s house along with his name and contact information to investigators.

Tuiavi’i further stated to investigators that his friend who provided him with drugs was arrested by police last year and he has a pending case in High Court on drugs charges.

He also told investigators that he’s not the only one who buys drugs from his friend. He stated that one week prior to his arrest, two of his friends asked him if he would show them the house of his friend so that they could buy drugs from him.

According to Tuiavii’s statement to investigators, they went with his two friends to the house of his friend in Vaitogi and bought $100 worth of drugs.

ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE HEARING

After his initial appearance in District Court, Tuiavii appeared in High Court for his Order to Show Cause (OSC) hearing on the allegation that he violated conditions of his probation after he was arrested in the recent case.

His defense attorney told the court that the allegation against his client is based on the new affidavit, and his client has entered a denial to the allegation of non compliance with conditions of his probation.

The defense attorney further told the court that he needs more time to speak to his client regarding the new allegation.

The court set the preliminary examination for Tuiavi’i in two weeks time to allow him and his attorney time to discuss the case.

BACKGROUND

In May of 2019, the court sentenced Tuiavi’i to probation, with jail time, after he was convicted of unlawful possession of meth.

Tuiavi’i was ordered to serve 20 months in jail as one of the conditions of a 5-year probation term, for which he was to serve 10 months, which included the 8 months he had already served in pretrial confinement. The remaining 10 months were stayed as long as he was in compliance with conditions of his probation.

Tuiavi’i, a citizen of Samoa, was also ordered to depart the territory and remain outside of its borders for the remaining terms of his probation. However, the court stayed this condition based on his good behavior.

The court told Tuiavii that once he failed to comply with any of the court orders there would be no more chances for him.